Is Now the Time to Scoop up American Express Stock?

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Written By carina c

Following American Express’ (AXP) recent fourth-quarter financial disclosure, numerous financial analysts have promptly revised their 12-month forecasts for the company’s stock upwards.

This surge in optimism from Wall Street is particularly notable, given a backdrop of slowing revenue growth for the company. This article delves into the reasons behind this bullish sentiment, highlighting key aspects of American Express’ performance and strategic management that are drawing analyst praise and predicting an upward move for the stock.

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Understanding the Analyst Optimism

Despite a deceleration in revenue growth, American Express has captured analysts’ attention for several compelling reasons.

Munich Germany Apr 2020 Closeup Amex Credit Card American Express — Stock Photo, Image
Credits: DepositPhotos

Jon Arfstrom of RBC Capital, for instance, adjusted his 12-month price target for American Express from $220 to $226, post-report.

This optimism is rooted in a few critical areas: superior expense management, a consistent normalization of delinquency rates, and strong performance across vital business indicators.

Navigating Slowing Growth

American Express’ revenue growth is undeniably slowing down, with a year-over-year increase in Q4 revenue dropping to 11%, a noticeable decline from previous quarters.

The company’s forecast for 2024 suggests a continuation of this trend, with anticipated revenue growth ranging between 9% and 11%, a step down from the 14% growth observed in 2023.

However, the company’s management is projecting mid-teen growth in earnings per share (EPS) for 2024, buoyed by disciplined spending, operating leverage, and a versatile expenditure model.

This projection is a silver lining and a key factor in the positive outlook from analysts like Arfstrom.

Leverage and Expense Management

A standout aspect of American Express’ strategy is its focus on operating leverage and controlled expenses.

The company aims to keep its operating expenses steady, with total expense growth projected to be in the mid-to-high single digits, which is notably slower than its revenue growth forecast.

This disciplined approach to spending, along with the ability to adapt expenditure in response to market conditions, underscores the company’s operational efficiency.

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Credit Management and Delinquency Rates

American Express has also been recognized for its prudent management of delinquency rates, which have seen a modest increase but remain below pre-pandemic levels.

This controlled normalization in delinquency rates provides the company with clear visibility into its operations, allowing for strategic adjustments in marketing and credit underwriting as needed.

Diverse Growth Avenues

Another key element of American Express’ resilience is its multifaceted growth strategy, encompassing rising interest income and strong card-fee revenue growth.

The company’s interest income saw a significant 31% year-over-year increase in Q4, bolstered by both net-yield expansion and growth in revolving loan balances.

Furthermore, American Express has seen robust growth in net card-fee revenue, driven by an increase in premium cardholders and adjustments to cardholder fees.

Future Prospects and Valuation

Even with an expectation of moderated growth in some areas for 2024, American Express’ diverse growth strategies and disciplined expense management paint a positive picture for the company’s future.

The stock’s attractive valuation, coupled with a solid dividend yield and significant recent gains, makes a strong case for continued investor interest in American Express.

LONDON, UK - January 15th 2020: American express brand logo printed onto paper — Stock Photo, Image
Credits: DepositPhotos

In conclusion, despite the challenges posed by slowing top-line growth, American Express’ strategic focus on expense management, credit quality, and diversified revenue streams continue to make it an appealing option for investors.

Analysts like Jon Arfstrom remain bullish, reflecting confidence in the company’s ability to navigate the changing financial landscape effectively.

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