Being the natural contrarian that I am, when I get the sense that a lot of supposedly smart people like a stock, I start to lean the other way. And yet, predisposed as I am to dislike American Express
For another quarter, it looks like "so far, so good" at American Express. Revenue was up 14% as reported, with adjusted revenue in the U.S. card services business up 14%, international card revenue up 9%, and global network/merchant services revenue up about 14%. It also looked as though expenses were kept in check, and pre-tax operating income grew nicely.
Most of the basic components that underpin this business model continue to develop in an apparently positive direction. Cardholder numbers were up about 11% from last year, volume was up by a solid mid-teens percentage, and loan balances also rose nicely. In other words, AmEx keeps getting people to take its cards, and those people keep using them. What's more, partners like Citigroup
I think it's fair to say that the American credit card market is still in the process of adjusting to new rules and opportunities. Last year, we saw GE
The one fly in the ointment is consumer spending. Sooner or later, you have to think that consumers will stop borrowing money to finance discretionary spending. When that happens, it'll be a tough stretch for AmEx and its rivals. However, consumers have already stretched themselves further than many pundits thought that they would (or could), so who knows when it'll end -- though I think the longer it takes, the worse the adjustment will be.
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Fool contributor Stephen Simpson has no financial interest in any stocks mentioned (that means he's neither long nor short the shares).