American Express Beats Q4 Earnings Forecast as International Billings Impress

American Express saw a noted improvement in international billing gains over the fourth quarter, offsetting slower domestic spending growth and helping the credit card issuer beat Wall Street's earnings forecasts.
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American Express Co. (AXP) - Get Report posted stronger-than-expected fourth quarter earnings Friday as international billings growth offset a slower increase in domestic spending.

American Express said earnings for the three months ending in December came in at $2.03 per share, up 16.6% from the same period last year and 2 cents ahead of the Street consensus forecast. Group revenues, American Express said, rose 9% to $11.4 billion, again beating analysts' forecasts of an $11.362 billion tally.

Looking into the 2020 financial year, American Express said it expects to see revenue growth in the region of 8% to 10% and adjusted earnings of between $8.85 and $9.25 per share. 

 “During 2019, we added 11.5 million new proprietary cards and continued to deliver solid billings growth. Almost 70 percent of our new Card Members are choosing our fee-based products, helping to drive card fee revenue growth of 17 percent," said CEO Stephen Squeri. "And, we delivered solid loan growth while maintaining industry-leading credit metrics."

“I am also pleased to report that we achieved our goal of virtual parity merchant coverage in the United States as of year-end 2019," he added. "We set this ambitious goal in 2016 recognizing the integral role of our merchant network in driving our growth, and we remain committed to continuing to increase our coverage globally."

American Express shares were marked 4.6% higher in early trading to change hands at $137.71 each, a move that pushes the stock's six-month gain to around 8%.

American express said international billings rose 4.33% to $108.4 billion, compared to a 1.4% gain over the same period last year, while U.S. billings grew 5.7% to $216.8 billion. In the fourth quarter of 2018, U.S. billings grew 8.6%,