The Dow Treads Water as Visa Rises, American Express Falls

The Dow Jones Industrials (DJINDICES: ^DJI  ) have lost just 14 points as of 12:30 p.m. EDT. Without much in the way of earnings reports or economic data, market participants are torn between the positive momentum the Dow has enjoyed lately and concerns that the market is long overdue for a substantial correction. One area that has a lot of promise is electronic payments, and Dow members Visa (NYSE: V  ) and American Express (NYSE: AXP  ) are adjusting their overall strategies in order to take maximum advantage of the shift in how people pay for goods and services around the world.

For American Express, which is down 0.6% on the day, the primary challenge has been to figure out how to retain the company's reputation for having a high-end clientele while also offering products and services that appeal to a wider audience. Just yesterday, American Express announced a loyalty program in conjunction with ride-sharing service Uber, tapping into the popularity of the app-driven alternative to taxis in order to connect with a more mobile-savvy audience. Essentially, AmEx knows that those who are already comfortable enough with the mobile revolution to use Uber are also more likely to use smartphone-based electronic wallets. Getting those customers into its ecosystem is a great way for American Express to set the stage for future advances in payment technology.

American Express has also looked to serve the underbanked through its Bluebird service, which combines mobile-banking features with the utility of prepaid cards. Offering a separate brand that nevertheless capitalizes on the American Express name is a good way to broaden the Dow component's audience while also retaining the upper-crust reputation of its traditional cards.

Meanwhile, Visa rose almost 1% as investors anticipate the beginning this week of the World Cup. Visa stands to gain huge amounts of exposure from its position as a major sponsor of soccer's global championship. Recently, though, Visa has had to deal with a distraction on the soccer front, joining other major sponsors in demanding investigations from the sport's governing body for alleged corruption in selecting the site of the 2022 tournament. But more importantly for the new Dow component's long-term strategy, the company needs to show potential customers in key emerging markets -- many of which are nations that are most likely to have success in the World Cup -- that the Visa brand has global staying power. Moreover, having the ability to make payments easily worldwide is increasingly important in the global economy, and Visa has the chance to make a case for its capabilities on that front as well.

The Dow Jones Industrials have exposure to many industries, but every business relies on handling payments efficiently. Visa and American Express are at the cutting edge of the mobile-payment industry, and if they're successful in tapping the full potential of this market, it will help boost the Dow accordingly.

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