Financial services firm American Express Co.on Monday posted a 56-percent drop in quarterly profits, as a travel slump and the U.S. recession hurt its charge card, travel, and money management units.

The deadly Sept. 11 attacks made people cancel vacations and business trips, damaging profits at American Express, which relies on issuing corporate and consumer charge cards and assisting companies with travel arrangements to make money.

The recession also dented spending, hurting American Express' charge card fees. And the stock market downturn took a toll on its large money management operation. American Express took a $279 million pre-tax charge in the fourth quarter to restructure operations and fire staff in the weak environment.

The New York-based company, known for its green charge cards and travelers' checks, earned $297 million, or 22 cents a share, in the fourth quarter, compared with $677 million, or 50 cents a share, in the 2000 quarter. Excluding charges, American Express earned $476 million, or 36 cents a share, in the fourth quarter.

Its revenues fell 2 percent, to $5.59 billion from $5.71 billion.

Wall Street expected American Express to earn between 20 cents and 25 cents, with a mean estimate of 22 cents a share, according to market data firm Thomson Financial/First Call.

The company is firing thousands of workers and warned in December of lower fourth-quarter profits, saying it would take as much as $280 million in pre-tax restructuring charges to overhaul its businesses.

Its shares fell 88 cents to $36.12 on Monday on the New York Stock Exchange. The stock fell about 35 percent last year, underperforming the Standard & Poor's banking index, which fell about 2.5 percent in that time.

Profits at its travel-related services business, which includes charge cards, dropped 64 percent, to $170 million, as dwindling corporate profits and the aftershocks of Sept. 11 depressed corporate business and entertainment travel.

Its Minneapolis-based Financial Advisors unit posted a 33 percent decrease in profits to $163 million, as rocky stock markets kept leery investors to the sidelines.