United Parcel Service Inc. (UPS), the world's No. 1 parcel delivery group, Tuesday said it anticipated that fourth-quarter earnings would be lower than expected due to a slowing in domestic package volume growth and higher-than-anticipated operating costs.

While UPS also reaffirmed it expects earnings in 2005 to increase 13 percent to 17 percent, shares were off almost 3 percent in after-hours trading.

The company expects earnings, excluding a tax benefit, of 75 cents to 76 cents a share, down from its previous forecast of 83 cents to 87 cents a share. Analysts were expecting 85 cents a share, according to Reuters Estimates.

Including the benefit of a better-than-anticipated tax rate, UPS expects fourth-quarter adjusted earnings of 81 cents to 82 cents a share. On a GAAP (search) reporting basis, it expects 84 cents to 87 cents a share.

For all of 2004, UPS, based in Atlanta, Ga., forecast adjusted earnings of $2.89 to $2.90 a share, an increase of nearly 19 percent over 2003. Analysts were expecting UPS to earn $2.94 a share in 2004 and $3.41 a share in 2005.