BETHESDA, Md. — Marriott International reported a profitable fourth quarter Tuesday, reversing a loss from a year ago and predicting a rebound in lodging demand in 2004.

Marriott posted 2003 fourth-quarter earnings of $169 million, or 69 cents per share, compared to a loss of $37 million, or 15 cents per share, for the 2002 fourth quarter.

The 2002 figure included charges related to Marriott's exit from its senior citizen housing business and service distribution operation.

Marriott easily beat the consensus expectations of analysts surveyed by Thomson First Call, who predicted the company would earn 61 cents per share in the fourth quarter.

But the company's stock dropped as investors expected the company to give a more upbeat outlook for the coming year, following bullish predictions for 2004 issued recently by Marriott competitor Starwood.

Marriott reiterated its earlier forecast for 2004, saying it expects earnings from continuing operations to range from $2.06 to $2.16 per share. Analysts predict Marriott will earn $2.12 per share for the coming year.

"The Street was hoping to hear some more enthusiasm from Marriott being the bellwether of the group," said William Crow, an analyst with Raymond James & Associates.

Marriott shares fell 89 cents, about 2 percent, to close at $44.67 on the New York Stock Exchange.

Revenues for the fourth quarter were $2.87 billion, a 6 percent increase over year-ago revenues of $2.69 billion. Marriott attributed the uptick to higher franchise fees and 11 percent higher sales in its timeshare business.

The company's earnings from its synthetic fuel business dipped slightly from $36 million, or 14 cents per share, in the 2002 fourth quarter to $30 million, or 12 cents per share, in 2003.

For the entire year, Marriott earned $502 million, or $2.05 per share, compared to $277 million, or $1.10 per share, for 2002.

Marriott predicts an improvement in business travel, which suffered last year from the economic downturn, war in Iraq and the SARS outbreak.

"We continue to believe we will see good steady recovery throughout 2004," said Arne Sorensen, the company's chief financial officer.

Revenue per available room, an industry benchmark, should grow between 3 percent and 4 percent, the company said. It anticipates adding 25,000 to 30,000 new rooms in the year, a rate Crow called "a stunning pace."