American Express Company Stock Is Nothing to Get Excited About

AXP stock is likely to have another solid year, but shaky Q4 results might put a damper on the stock's rally for now

American Express stock

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American Express Company (NYSE:AXP) made a bold recovery last year after watching its share price decline for two years straight. The firm was dealt a harsh blow when Costco Wholesale Corporation (NASDAQ:COST) abandoned its partnership with the card in 2015. Although many thought AXP stock wouldn’t be able to come back from that, the company proved them wrong by posting gains of 30% over the course of 2017.

Now, American Express is due to report fourth-quarter earnings on Thursday after the bell. And many investors are wondering whether AXP stock will keep on rising.

There’s no denying that American Express has proven to be resilient over the past year — standing up to fierce competition from rivals like Visa Inc (NYSE:V) and fending off advances from hot new fintech firms looking to revolutionize the payment processing space.

If you’re going to add AXP stock to your portfolio, however, you might want to wait until after they’ve announce their Q4.

Q4 Issues For AXP Stock

The Trump administration’s corporate-tax changes will hurt instead of help American Express, unlike many other U.S. firms. The company confirmed that it will take a $2.4 billion charge because of write downs in deferred tax assets.

The one-time charge could put a dent in the AmEx’s Q4 results. And the dent could be large enough that the company will miss earnings expectations and report a loss.

Announcing the charge ahead of the time will probably help American Express. There’s still a chance, however, that the Q4 shortcomings could wreak havoc on the company’s share buyback plans. Instinet’s Bill Carcache predicts that American Express may be forced to suspend its buyback plans for the first half of the year.

That would be detrimental to AmEx’s EPS growth as the buyback scheme adds around 500 basis points to that figure.

Not All Bad

With that said, it’s not all doom and gloom for AXP stock. The firm actually turned in a pretty solid performance in 2017, and the company’s results should reflect that.

Analysts expect a few of American Express’ key metrics to show promise. Total cards in force — the number of cards that are issued and outstanding — is predicted to rise 4.5%. Year-over-year card member loans and receivables growth should also impress.

Long-Term Outlook

AXP stock also benefits from a lot of optimism in the sector over all.

U.S. Tax reform is expected to give consumers more disposable income, which will likely boost consumer spending. On top of that, e-commerce is gaining even more traction. So far, we’ve seen online retailers post strong Q4 results. And that bodes well for processors like American Express as most people use their credit cards for online transactions.

American Express also offers a strong value proposition to its customers that will likely continue through 2018. Last year, the company invested heavily in its member rewards program. This has helped attract new cardholders and keep current customers spending through the AmEx network.

In an effort to put the Costco mess behind it, American Express has also been signing on new co-branding partners like Hilton Worldwide Holdings Inc (NYSE:HLT). While there’s no denying that losing Costco was a huge hit for AXP, the Hilton partnership will help American Express continue to build out its brand image. The premium Hilton-branded AmEx Aspire card also comes with a slew of perks that will be attractive to frequent travelers.

Should You Buy AXP Stock?

While it’s true that American Express stock looks like it’s about to have another profitable year, I wouldn’t jump on the bandwagon just yet.

Yes, AmEx has made a pretty solid comeback after losing Costco. And the firm’s 2018 plans look solid. But Thursday’s earnings are likely to see the stock lower — especially if the company’s has to put its buyback plans on hold. And although American Express had a good 2017, its rivals Visa and MasterCard Inc (NYSE:MA) performed better.

If you’re looking for a payment processor to add to your portfolio, AXP isn’t a bad bet. Right now, however, the competition looks better.

At very least, I’d wait until the dust settles following American Express’ Q4 results before buying.

As of this writing, Laura Hoy did not hold a position in any of the aforementioned securities. 

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