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American Express and Discover Keep Taking Market Share

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- U.S. consumers continue to deleverage, but that doesn't keep two of the major credit card lenders from continuing to expand.

One of the lovely things about credit card lenders is the availability of monthly loan balance and credit quality information for several major lenders, along with separate monthly master trust reports for all, which provide credit quality detail on their entire managed card portfolios, including securitized loans.

American Express (AXP - Get Report) late on Thursday reported its average credit card balances on the company's balance sheet grew to $54.6 billion during July from $54.4 billion during June. That's an increase of "only" 0.4% during the month, but it works out to an annualized growth rate of 4.4%, which is quite strong when considering that overall consumer credit balances in the U.S. continue to decline. The company's credit card portfolio balances were up 3.8% year-over-year.

Discover Financial Services (DFS - Get Report) was the only other major U.S. card lender showing portfolio growth during July, with average card balances growing to $49.6 billion from $49.5 billion during June. That's slower growth of just 0.2% for the month, and an annualized growth rate of 2.4%. Then again, average card balances were up 4.6% from a year earlier.

Capital One (COF) reported average credit card loan balances held for investment of $69.9 billion during July, declining 0.4% from July. Average credit card balances were down 13% from a year earlier, which includes the transfer of about $7 billion in Best Buy credit card loans to held-for-sale during the first quarter. Capital One expects to complete the sale of the Best Buy loans, for roughly book value, to Citigroup (C - Get Report) during September.

When discussing the challenging environment for card lenders in a note on Friday, FBR analyst Scott Valentin pointed out that while the second quarter saw year-over-year "credit spending increases at all major banks," consumers' "payment rates increased 133 bps [month-over-month, or] MOM, from 24.2% in June to 25.5% in July, resulting in subdued receivables growth.

"The MOM paydown rate increase of 133 bps, compared to historical MOM paydown changes of +37 bps in 2012, -59 bps in 2011, -1 bp in 2010, and +70 bps in 2009," Valentin wrote. "July's average industry payment rate of 25.5% compares with 24.2% in June and 23.6% in July 2012."
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