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American Express Shares Rise Following Upgrade

NEW YORK (TheStreet) --Shares of American Express  (AXP) were higher on above average volumes Thursday following an upgrade to "buy" from "neutral" by Janney Montgomery Scott analyst Sameer Gokhale, who al raised his price target for the shares to $99 from $91.00.

American Express shares were up 1.2% to $85.24 on volume of nearly 2.1 million shares after an hour of trading. American Express ordinarily sees 4.4 million shares change hands each day.

Gokhale's more bullish view comes after American Express's semi-annual meeting with investors and analysts, in which the company described an initiative called OPEN, aimed at increasing acceptance among smaller merchants. 

"We came away from the meeting feeling more confident that these initiatives combined with its focus on more affluent consumers should enable to it to continue to deliver strong returns and EPS growth," Gokhakle wrote.

A report from Keefe Bruyette & Woods analyst Sanjay Sakhrani was similarly positive, though he referred to the initiative as OptBlue rather than OPEN, suggesting Amex's marketing pitch could be clearer.

"OptBlue looks like a solid plan for increased acceptance as AXP attempts to close the acceptance parity gap between [Visa V and MasterCard MA]," wrote Sakhrani, who has an "outperform" rating an $98 price target on Amex.

Shares of Visa were up 1.2% to $218.16 while MasterCard shares were up 2% to $74.27. Volumes on those stocks, however, were closer to their trailing three month daily averages.

Disclosure: TheStreet's editorial policy prohibits staff editors, reporters and analysts from holding positions in any individual stocks.

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