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Tech Industry

Ask Jeeves&#039 3Q loss wider than expected

Ask Jeeves Inc. (Nasdaq: ASKJ) investors must be asking themselves how a company that grew its total sales from $113,000 in the year-ago period to $6.5 million this quarter and still missed analysts' estimates.

The quirky search engine site posted a loss of $8.7 million, or 35 cents a share, on sales of $6.5 million.

First Call consensus expected it to lose only 34 cents a share in the quarter.

Ahead of the earnings report, Ask Jeeves shares closed off 5 to 78.

In the year-ago period, it lost $918,000, or 9 cents a share, on sales of just $113,000.

Last quarter, Ask Jeeves topped Street estimates when it lost $9 million, or 42 cents a share, on sales of $2.7 million.

In the quarter, Ask Jeeves received 134 million questions at its site, up 46 percent from the 92 million queries it fielded in the second quarter.

Users also spent an average of 16.9 minutes per session at the site. While company officials called this "one of the highest site durations in the industry," some skeptics would argue that users spend more time there because it takes so long to get to the sites they desire.

"This has been an exciting quarter for Ask Jeeves," said CEO Rob Wrubel in a prepared release. "The progress we made on proving our business model puts us in a position to leverage our consumer and corporate services to more aggressively facilitate e-business initiatives."

Earlier this quarter, Ask Jeeves shares got a nice boost after inking a deal with Microsoft Corp. (Nasdaq: MSFT) to provide customer support for Windows 98.

Ask Jeeves shares moved up to a high of 86 1/8 earlier this month after trading at an all-time low of 22 1/8 in August.

All four analysts following the stock rate it a "buy."

First Call consensus expects it to lose $1.40 a share in the fiscal year.