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If you’ve owned Corning (GLW) shares for any length of time like I have, you’re familiar with this balancing act: Great long-term prospects push up the stock while short-term worries push it down.

That’s exactly what investors got in the market reaction to Corning’s third quarter earnings announced on October 26. The company reported earnings of 42 cents a share, beating Wall Street projections by 3 cents a share. Revenues were down 4.9% from the third quarter of 2008 but at $1.48 billion still came in $60 million above analyst expectations.

Dig a little deeper and the quarter showed exactly how good Corning’s future could be.

Sales from units that represent products that are just gaining market traction now soared from second quarter levels. Environmental technologies, the home of Corning’s diesel filter products, showed a 27% increase in sales from the second quarter. Specialty materials, the home of Corning’s gorilla glass for touch screen displays, increased sales by the same 27% from the second quarter.

But, as always recently, analysts and investors had just enough to worry about in the results from the company’s current bread and butter business of glass for LCD TV and computer displays. Corning said it expects volume in its wholly owned display business to be flat or down slightly in the fourth quarter from third quarter levels. Prices, the company said, would be consistent with those in the third quarter.

Investors with long memories could breathe a sigh of relief: They remember the fear, not so long ago, that prices would plunge in the fourth quarter. Investors with more of a “What have you done for me lately?” approach were disappointed that the company didn’t raise guidance or otherwise signal optimism for the fourth quarter and 2010. (It also didn’t help the stock’s price that the earnings announcement came as investors started to worry about Thursday’s third quarter GDP report. For more on that see my October 26 post http://jubakpicks.com/2009/10/26/will-the-u-s-recession-end-on-thursday/ )

Full disclosure: I own shares of Corning in my personal portfolio.