With many of the biggest U.S. banking companies set to report fourth-quarter and yearend profits today, Bank One Corp. may still manage to stand out in the crowd.

Chicago-based Bank One is one of several companies to see its earnings - and stock price - damaged last year by weak revenues and rising operating expenses. First Union Corp., Charlotte, N.C.; National City Corp. of Cleveland; and U.S. Bancorp in Minneapolis, along with Bank One, warned investors last year to reduce their earnings expectations.

So far, First Union and National City have reported fourth-quarter profits that met those lowered expectations. And Bank One said this month that it expects to report a 78-cent profit per share for the quarter. This target excludes charges for a broad restructuring the company has begun to cut costs and return its ailing First USA Inc. credit card operation to healthy profitability.

Layoffs began last week at some Bank One units. Details on the number of employees affected will not be released until later in the quarter, however, a spokesman said.

First USA, based in Wilmington, Del., sent out pink slips Wednesday to an undisclosed number of workers in credit risk, marketing, human resources, card member services, and collections areas. A First USA spokesman said Friday that the ax would fall most heavily in the company's Delaware operations, where about 3,300 of its 22,000 employees work.

Layoffs are also planned in the retail banking group, a company spokesman said. Offices will also be closed or merged; the plan is to pare the automobile lending group's 64 offices down to 22.

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