Seattle-based F5 Networks said its fiscal fourth-quarter sales will reach $171.3 million, falling short of its forecasted $172 million to $174 million.

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Software

p>Seattle-based F5 Networks said its fiscal fourth-quarter sales will reach $171.3 million, falling short of its forecasted $172 million to $174 million. But the company said it expects to meet previous guidance on earnings per share.

In a conference call Tuesday, Chief Financial Officer Andy Reinland attributed the revenue miss, in part, to a shortage of entry-level products. “We were unable to ship a portion of the orders we received for the quarter,” he said.

Chief Executive John McAdam said the company’s results have been affected by the global economic slowdown, especially among financial-services customers and in Europe.

F5, which helps businesses manage network applications, reports fourth-quarter results Oct. 22.

Its stock rose 45 cents, or 2.1 percent, to $21.95 Tuesday.

Nation and World

Manufacturing

Alcoa to conserve after profit drops

Alcoa, one of the world’s largest aluminum producers, on Tuesday reported a 52 percent drop in third-quarter profit and said it would conserve cash by suspending its stock-buyback program and all noncritical capital projects.

Alcoa, the first component of the 30 companies that make up the Dow Jones industrial average to report earnings for the quarter, said results were hurt by sharply lower aluminum prices, weaker demand and a charge from curtailing production at a Texas smelter.

The company reported earnings of $268 million, or 33 cents per share, for the three months ended Sept. 30. That compared with $555 million, or 63 cents per share, during the same period last year.

Shares of Alcoa fell 68 cents, or 4 percent, to $16.03 in after-hours trading.

Retailing

Gasoline sales give Safeway a boost

Higher sales at its gas stations and upscale stores helped boost grocer Safeway’s profit nearly 3 percent in its third fiscal quarter.

The nation’s second-biggest grocery said Tuesday that its profit rose to $199.7 million, or 46 cents per share, for the three months ended Sept. 6, from $194.6 million, or 44 cents per share, last year.

The results sent Safeway shares up nearly 5 percent Tuesday to close at $22.85, gaining $1.08 for the day.

Safeway’s sales rose nearly 4 percent to $10.2 billion from $9.8 billion, helped by higher gas sales and contributions from its more upscale stores.

Analysts polled by Thomson Reuters expected earnings of 47 cents per share and sales of $10.08 billion.

Financial services

Battered consumers cut back on credit

Consumer borrowing fell in August for the first time in more than a decade as households, battered by rising job layoffs and the decaying economy, cut back sharply on their use of credit.

The Federal Reserve said Tuesday that consumer borrowing fell at an annual rate of 3.7 percent in August, before the financial crisis became acute, forcing the government to approve a $700 billion rescue of the financial industry.

August’s decline in consumer credit marked the first time that total borrowing had fallen since a 4.3 percent rate of decline in January 1998.

Energy

Oil prices recover after plunging

Oil prices swung higher Tuesday, snapping a four-day plunge as investors temporarily halted their frantic selling to see whether the government’s sweeping economic bailout can stem a widening global downturn.

Light, sweet crude for November delivery rose $2.25 to settle at $90.06 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange, after earlier trading as high as $93.02.

Prices had lost nearly $13 in the past four trading sessions as a widening economic crisis spreads overseas and undercuts energy-demand forecasts.

Telecommunications

Qwest, union to resume talks

The largest union at Qwest says it plans to resume contract talks with the company on Thursday.

The Communications Workers of America (CWA) says a contract covering roughly 20,000 Qwest workers in 13 states has been extended until the end of the day Friday.

Union members last month rejected a tentative three-year agreement with Denver-based Qwest after the previous contract expired Aug. 16.

CWA represents Qwest workers in Colorado, Arizona, Iowa, Idaho, Minnesota, Nebraska, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oregon, South Dakota, Utah, Washington state and Wyoming.

Union members have authorized leaders to call a strike.

Automotive

GM headquarters might be sold

A General Motors official says the automaker could consider selling its downtown Detroit headquarters as part of a way to raise cash but plans to stay in the towering complex.

The Detroit News reports Tuesday General Motors wants to borrow about $500 million from one or both of Detroit’s pension funds to refinance the Renaissance Center, which it bought earlier this year for $626 million.

GM’s executive director of worldwide real estate, John Blanchard, says talks are preliminary and the automaker is “committed to the city.” It moved its headquarters from Midtown Detroit in 1996 and initially leased the building.

GM earlier announced it was putting assets such as its Hummer truck brand up for sale and could announce more asset sales this quarter.

Compiled from Seattle Times staff and The Associated Press