The biggest surprise for thrifts' fourth-quarter earnings may be that most will meet their targets, despite higher interest rates.

"Most savings and loans should be able to post on-target earnings for the fourth quarter, though it won't be easy," said Thomas O'Donnell, an analyst at Salomon Smith Barney. On the other hand, "there should be few positive surprises this time around, unlike earlier in 1999, when such surprises were plentiful."

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