American Electric Power

(AEP) - Get Report

warned Thursday that it would not meet its financial targets for fiscal 2002, citing an industrywide slowdown and overall weakness in the economy.

The Ohio-based energy producer is the latest in a series of utility concerns to issue a profit warning. The list also includes

TXU

(TXU)

and

Duke Energy

(DUK) - Get Report

.

AEP said it expects to post a full-year net profit of $2.85 to $3.15 a share, compared to prior guidance of $3.20 to $3.35 a share. Analysts, on average, were expecting the company to earn $3 a share, according to research firm Thomson Financial/First Call.

For fiscal 2003, AEP is projecting a profit of $3.09 a share, in line with current analysts' expectations. The company also said it plans on keeping its quarterly dividend of 60 cents.

On Wednesday, AEP fired five of its employees for providing false information about gas trades to publications that compile data on price benchmarks. "We don't know why they did it, but we cannot tolerate that behavior," the company said in a press release. "The information they provided was not used to price any of our transactions, so it did not impact earnings."

The shares were recently up 2.5% to $18.13, after hitting an all-time low of $15 earlier in the session.