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Updated from 4:49 p.m. EDT


Novellus Systems


shares took a hit Monday afternoon amid confusion about the company's third-quarter earnings release.

The chip maker Monday reported third-quarter earnings of 62 cents per share, matching the

First Call/Thomson Financial

estimate. Revenue rose 10% sequentially, to $359.1 million, and jumped 132% from a year ago.

Novellus shares slipped in the last hour of trading, after the company apparently posted the earnings release inadvertently on its Web site ahead of schedule. After trading higher for most of the day, Novellus shares closed down 6, or 15%, to 34 1/2. Novellus had been scheduled to report earnings after the close.

Earnings confusion pounds Novellus


called the Novellus regarding the release on its Web site, the company called that earnings statement "false information." That experience apparently wasn't uncommon: At 3:45 p.m. EDT on the

Yahoo! Finance

message board, a poster known as


reported the following exchange:

    I called and asked for Investor Relations and the female answering the phone asked "is this about the report on the web?" I said "yes," and she said "it's a false report"
    I then asked if it was false or mistakenly posted. Her response was FALSE.

But soon after the market's close an identical press release ran on


, one of the leading business-news dissemination companies. Representatives of Novellus didn't immediately return a second call seeking comment Monday afternoon.

More Scrutiny

Scrutiny of earnings statements has increased in the months since



shares plunged 62% one day in August on a hoax press release disseminated over the Internet. Emulex shares largely recovered that day when the company disavowed the release. But the episode led the leading press-release wires, such as BusinessWire and rival


, to reiterate that they check press statements with company sources before issuing the releases to the public.

Further shining the limelight on the press-release machinery, regulators in recent months have pressed companies to give all market participants equal access to all material news. That directive has led to changes in how companies issue releases and conduct conversations with various groups of investors and analysts. The press-release wires have also ended their long-standing practice of giving releases to the media early, since so many individual investors now use the Internet to find company data.