Department store operator Macy's Inc forecast earnings for the critical fourth quarter far below Wall Street expectations, sending shares down 3.4 percent in premarket trading.

Macy's said on Wednesday it expects to earn between $1 and $1.05 per share in the fourth quarter, which includes the holiday season. Wall Street analysts had expected earnings of $1.17 per share, according Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

The company also expects fourth-quarter same-store sales - sales at stores open at least a year - to fall between 1 percent and 2 percent.

In the third quarter, Macy's net loss narrowed to $35 million, or 8 cents a share, from $44 million, or 10 cents a share, a year earlier. Excluding one-time items such as $205 million in restructuring costs, its loss was 3 cents a share.

Macy's reported sales fell 3.9 percent to $5.28 billion in the third quarter.

Analysts, on average, had been expecting a loss of 7 cents per share and sales of $5.25 billion during the quarter, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

The Cincinnati-based chain said its losses had narrowed on the strength of its Bloomingdale's stores and online sales.

Last week, Macy's said same-store sales had fallen 0.8 percent in October, a steeper drop than the 0.1 percent expected by analysts, according to Thomson Reuters.

The company operates 800 Macy's stores in the United States and its territories, as well as 40 Bloomingdale's stores.

Macy's shares fell 77 cents, or 4 percent, to $18.66 in premarket trade.

(Reporting by Phil Wahba; Editing by Derek Caney)