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After soaring Friday on a

Business Week

report that several companies were interested in acquiring it, shares of

American Express


were in a downswing today following a profit warning from the company.

Not only is the stock getting hammered, the prices for call options which soared on Friday were falling sharply today, leaving those who bought calls on Friday likely feeling pretty lousy. For more on the AmEx situation from Friday, check out

Eileen Kinsella's

piece. The stock was down 5.5%, or $2.27, to $39.03.

This morning, AmEx said it expects first-quarter earnings per share to be 18% below the 48 cents a share it earned in the year-ago period. The

Thomson Financial/First Call

17-analyst estimate called for the company to earn 51 cents a share. The company said the decline is expected to reflect pretax losses of about $185 million from the writedown and sale of certain high-yield securities held in the investment portfolio of its

American Express Financial Advisors

unit. These writedowns will rise markedly from $18 million, pretax in the first quarter of last year.

The company pointed out that earlier this year, it projected full-year 2001 earnings growth to be at the low end of its 12% to 15% target range.

Volume in the AmEx options soared Friday after

Business Week's

Inside Wall Street column cited the company as a potential takeover target. As a result, more than 25,000 call options traded Friday, far surpassing AmEx's average daily options volume of 7,869, according to

McMillan Analysis


That speculation also drove up prices of some key American Express call options. The April 40 calls closed at 2.95 ($295) on Friday, but today were trading down to 1.40 ($140) on the

Chicago Board Options Exchange

. The price of the April 42 1/2 calls also collapsed, falling from a Friday close of 1.80 ($180) to around 0.85 ($85) this morning.

Volume was light in those options today.

Speaking of light volume, some market watchers said activity in the market was lean as traders wait for a good reason to jump into the market.

"No one's doing anything now," said Tim Biggam, chief option strategist at

Man Financial

. He said the cash keeps building up as people are hoping for a piece of good news. He said people who were nibbling when, say the


was at 2100, aren't doing that now.

"Nobody wants to be the first guy in," he said.