Nike Inc reported a worse-than-expected global decline in forward orders sending shares of the world's largest athletic shoe and clothing company down 4.1 percent.

Orders through November fell 12 percent from the prior year, or a 5 percent fall excluding currency changes. Sterne Agee analyst Sam Poser said Wall Street had been expecting a currency-neutral decline of 2 percent.

Nike has been shedding 5 percent of worldwide staff to lower its costs in the global economic downturn but weak demand and currency fluctuations have hurt results.

The company said net income in its fiscal fourth quarter ended May 31 fell to $341.4 million, or 70 cents per share, from $490.5 million, or 98 cents per share, a year earlier.

The results included a $144.5 million after-tax charge, or 29 cents per share, related to the job cuts and a company-wide realignment involving factory consolidation.

Excluding those charges, Nike earned 99 cents per share, above the 96 cents expected, on average, by analysts polled by Reuters Estimates.

While we see glimmers of economic recovery, we still have a challenging road ahead, said Chief Executive Mark Parker, citing modest growth for 2010 and gross margin headwinds due to currency fluctuations.

Beaverton, Oregon-based Nike has weathered the downturn better than some peers, riding its brand cachet and a diverse portfolio of products sold at various prices and through different channels, from boutiques to discount chains.

Still, revenue slid 7 percent in the quarter to $4.7 billion. U.S. revenues slipped 2 percent in the quarter, hurt by a 15 percent decline in apparel sales.

At Nike's European division, which includes the Middle East and Africa, revenues plummeted 19 percent, but were down 3 percent on a constant currency basis.

Sales in the Asia Pacific region were flat, and rose 3 percent excluding currency fluctuations.

Looking at forward orders by region, the Europe, Middle East and Africa unit saw the greatest decline of 24 percent, while U.S. future orders fell 4 percent.

They chopped a lot of costs in the quarter, but gross margins weren't very good, said Sterne Agee's Poser. They appear to be doing a lot of things to keep their (market) share but not helping to (protect the) Nike brand.

Poser cited Nike's placement of product in low-cost chains as an example. He said lower future orders in all its geographical regions suggested poor demand.

In March, Nike announced a global reorganization that created six new geographical territories -- including fast-growing China -- designed to help bring goods closer to market and reduce management overlap.

Nike is also cutting back on its pricey marketing campaigns after budgets swelled last year in advance of the Beijing Olympics.

Shares of Nike fell to $50.84 in extended trading after closing at $53.02 in regular trading on the New York Stock Exchange.

(Reporting by Alexandria Sage; Editing by Tim Dobbyn)