CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) _ Shares of Bank of America Corp. fell nearly 8 percent Wednesday after the nation's second largest financial services company warned that fourth-quarter and 2001 earnings would not meet analysts' expectations.

Bank of America officials projected quarterly earnings of about $1.4 billion, or 85 cents to 90 cents per share, well below the $1.17 consensus estimate by analysts surveyed by First Call/Thomson Financial.

The company also said expects earnings per share in 2001 to range from $5.10 to $5.20. Before Wednesday's announcement, analysts were expecting $5.46.

Officials with the Charlotte-based financial giant blamed high credit costs and nonperforming domestic corporate loans for the disappointing earnings forecast.

``These realistic projections are based on the deterioration of credit quality and slowdown in the capital markets activity,'' said spokeswoman Ann McNeish. ``We do indicate that nonperforming assets will be about 20 percent above the third-quarter level.''

Investors were not pleased by the news, sending shares down $3.19 to $38 on the New York Stock Exchange.

The news also caused declines in several financial stocks amid fears of a larger credit problem, helping send the Dow Jones industrial average down more than 230 points.

``The entire industry is certainly affected by credit quality issues,'' McNeish said.

Last month, the company disclosed that one large loan had been placed on nonperforming status and that a significant portion of it will appear as a one-time charge.

Meeting with investors in New York Wednesday, BOA vice chairman and chief financial officer James H. Hance Jr. said the company estimates fourth quarter net charge-offs and provision expense at about $1.1 billion.

Hance said Bank of America is budgeting for significantly higher loan losses and credit costs in 2001 but that net charge-offs are not expected to exceed the company's target.

Bank of America, which had $672 billion in assets as of Sept. 30, has full-service operations in 21 states and the District of Columbia.

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http://www.bankofamerica.com/