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Why American Express Company Stock Jumped 6% Today

By Jordan Wathen - Apr 20, 2017 at 3:58PM

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First-quarter earnings topped Wall Street's expectations.

What happened

Shares of American Express Company (AXP -1.27%) are on the move, rising by about 6% as of 3:00 p.m. EDT on Thursday. Investors were pleased by the company's first-quarter earnings, and its progress toward its earnings goal for the full year.

So what

American Express reported a profit of $1.34 per share vs. the consensus analyst estimate of $1.28 per share. Higher spending by card-carrying customers helped drive revenue growth of 7%, adjusted for currency fluctuations and the contribution of its Costco co-branded card to its results in the same period last year.

The company reported that total loans on a worldwide basis grew to $65.3 billion in the first quarter, an 11% increase over the year-ago period. Loans grew 12% when adjusted for currency impacts.

Fanned out credit cards

Image source: Getty Images.

Lending has become a larger part of American Express' strategy to grow revenue and profit. In prepared remarks on the company's conference call, AmEx Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer Jeff Campbell said, "During the first quarter, more than 50% of the growth in U.S. consumer loans came from existing customers, consistent with the trend we described at our Investor Day."

Increased rewards expenses somewhat offset higher revenue, as the company refreshed its American Express Platinum card to compete with other high-end cards, including a recent product launch by JPMorgan's Chase brand, the Chase Sapphire Reserve.

Several Wall Street analysts upped their price targets following the company's earnings report. Bernstein, which has the most bullish view on the company's shares, increased its price target to $95, citing robust revenue growth.

Now what

American Express reiterated its guidance for the rest of the year, guiding for earnings per share between $5.60 and $5.80 in 2017. 

"I would just conclude by saying we certainly feel very confident in the $5.60 to $5.80 EPS guidance range that we have reconfirmed again today," Campbell said in a reply to an analyst's question about the company's earnings guidance.

Year-over-year comparisons will become more favorable going forward, as the impact of its lost partnership with Costco only partially impacted its second-quarter 2016 results, and didn't fully disappear from its results until the third quarter of 2016.

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