JDS Uniphase Corp. (JDSU) reported a much smaller fourth-quarter loss Thursday but sales weakened amid continued slow demand in the communications industry.

JDS, the world's largest supplier of parts that boost the speed and capacity of fiber optic networks, also forecast that sales would fall in the first quarter of fiscal 2004.

"Guidance really is disappointing," said Dennis Gallagher, and analyst at SoundView Technology Group.

"Almost everyone else seems to be at least putting in a bottom. And for their guidance to be roughly down $10 million to $15 million (in sales) next quarter is pretty sad," he said.

JDS reported a loss of $61.6 million, or 4 cents a share, in the fourth quarter, compared with a loss of $1.04 billion, or 76 cents a share, in the year-earlier period.

Excluding one-time items, JDS posted a loss of 2 cents a share.

Revenues for the company, which is based in Ottawa and San Jose, California, fell to $161 million from $222 million last year, and from $166 million in the third quarter.

On a sequential basis, sales have only improved once in the past nine quarters.

Twenty four analysts surveyed by Thomson First Call had expected JDS, on average, to report a loss before one-time items of 3 cents a share on sales of $161 million.

JDS said in April that it expected fourth-quarter sales in the range of $155 million to $165 million and its loss before one-time items to be in the range of 2 to 4 cents a share.

For the fiscal year 2003, JDS reported a loss of $934 million, compared with a loss of $8.7 billion last year and a whopping $56 billion loss in fiscal 2001.

Looking ahead, the company said it expects first-quarter fiscal 2004 sales in the range of $145 million to $155 million and a loss before one-time items of 2 to 3 cents a share.

Before the forecasts, 14 analysts surveyed by Thomson First Call expected, on average, a first-quarter loss before one-time items of 3 cents a share on sales of $166 million.

Sales at JDS have dwindled as customers such as Nortel Networks Corp. and Lucent Technologies Inc. suffered steep declines in telecom spending. Nortel on Thursday and Lucent on Wednesday also posted quarterly losses.

JDS shares closed down 8 Canadian cents at C$4.47 in Toronto on Thursday and off 7 cents at $3.15 on Nasdaq. The results were issued after markets closed.