PALO ALTO, Calif. (AP) _ Hewlett-Packard Co.'s fourth-quarter earnings fell 12 percent, in part due to $170 million in special charges and weakness in the Asian and Latin American markets.

Despite seeing a decline in earnings, H-P still beat Wall Street expectations.

The nation's second-largest computer company earned $710 million, or 68 cents a diluted share, compared to $806 million, or 75 cents a diluted share, in the same period last year.

Excluding charges covering a voluntary-severance program and fixed-asset writedowns, earnings per diluted share were 79 cents.

A survey of analysts by First Call predicted earnings of 74 cents a share, not including the special charge.

For the three months ended Sept. 30, H-P took in $12.2 billion in revenue, up from $11.8 billion in the year-ago period.

H-P chairman Lewis E. Platt said the company was pleased with the results, blaming ``sluggish'' overall revenue growth on weakness overseas.

Net earnings for the year were $2.9 billion, a drop of 6 percent from the $3.1 billion earned in fiscal 1997. A diluted share earned $2.77, down 6 percent from $2.95 last year. Both figures include the $170 million in charges.

For the year, the Palo Alto-based company generated $47.1 billion in sales, a slight decrease from the $42.9 billion in revenue last year.

H-P released its results after the close of trading on the New York Stock Exchange, where shares rose 87 1/2 cents to $66.12 1/2.

``There are ... significant reasons for continued caution,'' Platt said. ``Although our business in Europe is showing improvement, the environment in Asia remains weak, and there are signs of slowing in parts of Latin America.''

The company said it experienced excellent growth in the information-storage business and in sales of some home PCs and midrange NetServer systems which help run computer networks. Growth was good overall for H-P's computer support and services operations.