Dow Chemical Co reported a fourth-quarter loss on Tuesday, as sales dropped 23 percent and volumes fell sharply amid the global economic crisis.

The largest U.S. chemicals maker's net loss was $1.55 billion or $1.68 a share during the last three months of 2008. This was lower compared with a year-earlier profit of $472 million, or 49 cents a share.

The Midland, Mich. firm lost $1.68 a share during the quarter, of 62 cents a share when excluding items. Sales fell 23 percent to $10.9 billion, with prices falling 6 percent and volume dropping 17 percent.

Analysts polled by FactSet expected a profit of 15 cents a share

Excluding items, the company posted a loss of 62 cents a share, compared with a year-ago profit of 84 cents a share.

As we enter 2009 we are assuming that the late 2008 demand levels will continue for several quarters and possibly beyond, Andrew Liveris, Dow's chairman and CEO said in a statement.

The company said most of its value chains are running at very low inventory levels.

Dow and competing companies in the chemical sector have been affected by the growing global recession as demand from the construction, electronics and automotive sectors have plunged.