Texas Instruments on Monday posted a surprise quarterly profit on better-than-expected revenue and gave a rosier outlook for the current quarter as demand for its chips appeared to stabilize.

Shares rose to $17.90, or more than 3 percent, in late trade after closing at $17.32 in the regular session on the New York Stock Exchange, after the company said business was better than expected in the last few weeks of the quarter.

It appears that the industry and TI in particular are putting in a bottom for the March quarter, said Ashok Kumar, an analyst at Collins Stewart.

We think the revenue will stabilize at these depressed levels and find its way back, he said.

TI forecast current quarter earnings per share of 1 cent to 15 cents on revenue of $1.95 billion to $2.40 billion. The low end of its revenue target was the same as average analyst estimates, according to Reuters Estimates.

Chief Financial Officer Kevin March told Reuters in an interview that TI's customers appeared to have completed efforts to reduce their inventories to meet weaker demand.

In the last few weeks of the quarter demand got a little better in a few areas ... 3G base stations, notebook computers, some parts of the handset market and LCD based televisions, March said.

As a result, March said TI, which had used only about 35 percent of its factory capacity in the first quarter, will moderately increase production levels in the current quarter.

But March noted that the company was not ready to celebrate a turn around for the broader market, which includes everything from automotives to industrial equipment.

Frankly, when we look out at the macro economic environment it remains unclear what direction the economy wants to go in, he said, noting that there were no signs of improvement in markets such as automotive or industrial.

The maker of chips for everything from cell phones to industrial equipment posted a profit of $17 million or 1 cent a share, compared with a profit of $662 million or 49 cents per share in the year-ago quarter. Revenue fell 36 percent to $2.09 billion from $3.27 billion in the year-ago quarter.

It had forecast first quarter results ranging from a loss of 8 cents per share to break-even on revenue of $1.79 billion to $2.05 billion.

Analysts on average had expected a net loss of 4 cents per share on revenue of $1.9 billion, slightly below the midpoint of TI's guidance range, according to Reuters Estimates.

TI trails Qualcomm Inc in the market for mobile phone chips, where it has been grappling with share losses as well as weak demand due to the recession.

(Reporting by Sinead Carew in New York and Gabriel Madway in San Francisco; Editing Bernard Orr)