Consolidated total revenues net of interest expense rose to $8.5 billion in the fourth quarter, from $8.1 billion a year ago, representing a 5 percent increase (6 percent when adjusted for foreign currency translations 3). The increase reflected higher Card Member spending and higher net interest income.
Consolidated provisions for losses totaled $528 million, down 17 percent from $638 million a year ago. This decrease reflected lower net write offs and a modest reserve release this quarter, compared with a modest increase in reserves last year. Credit indicators improved further from historically strong levels reported in prior quarters.
Consolidated expenses totaled $6.0 billion, down 8 percent from $6.6 billion a year ago. The decrease reflected the three year-ago items mentioned above. Adjusted for foreign currency translations, consolidated total expenses were down 7 percent from a year ago. 3
The effective tax rate for the quarter was 34 percent, up from 31 percent from a year ago.The company's return on average equity (ROE) was 27.8 percent, up from 23.1 percent a year ago. “Fourth quarter results reflected a healthy increase in billed business in the U.S. and internationally," said Kenneth I. Chenault, chairman and chief executive officer. “We ended the year on a strong note, with Card Member spending up 8 percent despite mixed reports during the holiday shopping season. “Credit quality indicators are at historically strong levels and, while many consumers are still cautious about taking on additional debt, we again saw a modest increase in Card Member loans this quarter. “The settlement agreement we reached last month addresses merchant concerns while helping to ensure that American Express Card Members are treated fairly at the point of sale. The agreement, which is subject to court approval, would limit our exposure to future legal claims and allow us to stay focused on helping merchants build their business and strengthen relationships with their customers.”