Monday, October 25, 2010

American Express Profit Outpaces Forecasts

American Express reported quarterly earnings and sales that exceeded Wall Street expectations Thursday, sending shares higher.

American Express

The company said it earned 90 cents a share in the third quarter against 54 cents a share in the same period last year.

Revenue for the quarter was reported at $7.03 billion, versus $6.01 billion last year.

Stock analysts who follow American Express, a Dow component, had expected the company to earn 86 cents a share on sales of $6.79 billion, according to

Net income in the U.S. card services unit jumped to $595 million, while provisions for losses in the U.S. unit fell 68 percent, to $274 million.

The company said that consumers with American Express cards spent 14 percent more than they did a year ago, but loan demand remained weak.

"Things are relatively healthy," said Michael Holland of Holland & Co in New York, which owns American Express shares.

Investors "had been expecting a little bit better results (than the forecasts), and they produced it," he said.

Last week, American Express reported that its monthly delinquencies rose slightly in September, from 2.4 percent to 2.5 percent. However, the company still maintains the lowest level of monthly delinquencies among major U.S. lenders.

Charge-offs, the company said, fell to 4.7 percent from 5.5 percent in August.

U.S. regulators are increasingly scrutinizing processing networks, including American Express, which this month vowed to fight a government antitrust lawsuit that could cut into its long-term profits.

Chief Executive Kenneth Chenault said in the company's earnings announcement that American Express continued to improve its competitive position "against the backdrop of regulatory and legislative changes that are reshaping the industry."

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