American Express shares surged Friday after the U.S.’ second-largest credit card company posted strong quarterly earnings, with American Express brass boasting about its wealthier consumer base’s resilience even as the U.S. economy borders on recession.
American Express reported $14.18 billion in revenue and $2.07 earnings per share, each below analyst expectations, but the stock rose more than 8% in early trading as investors latched onto an optimistic outlook from the company and a planned 15% increase in quarterly dividends to $0.60 per share.
“We aren’t seeing recessionary signals,” CEO Stephen Squeri told Yahoo Finance after his company reported its highest-ever quarterly cardholder spending.
Squeri’s assertion came even as the latest consumer spending data revealed Americans spent 1.1% less on retail last month compared to November.
But credit card companies have largely benefited as consumers take on debt to tackle surging inflation: Credit card balances rose 15% on an annual basis last year, according to the New York branch of the Federal Reserve, the largest annual increase in more than 20 years.
Inflation remains at multi-decade highs even as it ticks down following the Federal Reserve’s hikes to the federal funds rate, subsequently sending credit card interest rates to multi-year highs. American Express shares are down 1.9% over the last year, outpacing the S&P’s 6.3% decline during the period but falling short of Visa and Mastercard’s respective gains of 12% and 8%. Visa and Mastercard rose Friday following the American Express report, while the Dow Jones Industrial Average, S&P and tech-heavy Nasdaq were each flat.
American Express’ largely wealthier customers aren’t “immune to economic downturns” but are “spending on through” inflation and macroeconomic concerns, Squeri said on a call with investors Friday. Recent large-scale layoffs at technology firms like Google and Amazon haven’t had “any impact” on American Express’ core business thus far, Squeri added. Inflation tends to impact poorer consumers more as they spend a greater portion of their income on price-sensitive goods and have less savings to dip into.
American Express is the latest company to buck predictions of what some analysts called an “imminent” earnings recession as most corporations report quarterly financials, joining the likes of Tesla and Comcast.
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