Despite chief executive officer Kerry K. Killinger's recent campaign to promote Washington Mutual Inc.'s stock, shares of the largest thrift in the country hit a 52-week low last week on persistent concerns about next year's earnings.

Some analysts said the worries about Washington Mutual are irrational. But investors have been shedding shares of banking and thrift companies ever since earnings shortfall warnings by U.S. Bancorp of Minneapolis, and National City Corp. of Cleveland. Both said their fourth-quarter earnings - and in the case of U.S. Bancorp, 2000 earnings - would fall short of analysts' expectations because of funding issues.

Subscribe Now

Access to authoritative analysis and perspective and our data-driven report series.

14-Day Free Trial

No credit card required. Complete access to articles, breaking news and industry data.