EMC Software

(EMC)

shares skidded 8.7% today after the data-storage giant posted sharply lower earnings for the second quarter and indicated that the third quarter may be even worse.

The company said second-quarter net income totaled $109 million, or 5 cents a share, in line with Wall Street's reduced estimates. A year earlier, EMC earned $429 million, or 19 cents a share. Revenue came in at $2.02 billion, 6% short of the $2.15 billion recorded a year ago.

In early July, the company

warned that it expected earnings of 4 cents to 6 cents a share; at that time, Wall Street expected 17 cents a share, according to

Thomson Financial/First Call

. In addition, the company said then that its sales would total about $2 billion, more than $400 million short of expectations.

Today, Chief Financial Officer Bill Teuber did little to reassure investors, saying his ability to forecast was "significantly impaired." Although he couldn't offer definitive near-term guidance, he did say the outlook is for the third quarter to be worse than the second.

"More than 800 companies have made preannouncements that the spring quarter would be below expectations," Mike Ruettgers, EMC executive chairman, said. "By and large, these are our customers."

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EMC's competitors were also suffering today.

Network Appliance

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slipped 8% to $10.49. Traditional enterprise hardware maker

IBM

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was off 3.5% to $104.69, and

Hewlett-Packard

(HWP)

slid 1.6% to $25.99.