Micron Technology Inc. officials have blamed ongoing declines in memory chip prices for the company's largest annual loss in its 20-year history of volatile earnings.

Still, the Boise-based computer chip company did better than Wall Street expected. So did Micron Electronics, its Nampa-based PC subsidiary.Company officials announced Monday Micron Technology lost $234 million in the year ending Sept. 3, including $89 million in the fourth quarter. But there was some good news. The quarterly shortfall was smaller than the $106 million lost in the third quarter.

Micron Technology has been pummeled by falling chip prices for three years. So far this year, prices have fallen 60 percent. Last year, they dropped 75 percent and were down 45 percent in 1996.

The plunging prices, blamed on a worldwide oversupply of chips, have dragged down Micron Technology's profits and cut into state corporate tax receipts.

But the end of the dismal market may be near. Following a conference call with Micron executives, three securities analysts said they now believe chip prices may have started to climb.