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American Express CEO defends guidance, says no spending pullback on the horizon


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American Express CEO defends guidance, says no spending pullback on the horizon

American Express Co. executives defended their full-year revenue expectations as analysts questioned whether broader market effects could moderate growth.

The company announced that it expects full-year revenue growth for 2019 to be between 8% and 10% and earnings per share to be between $7.85 and $8.35. On a call to discuss earnings, executives faced questions from analysts about possible change in confidence or spending reductions.

"In a world where 2019 turns out to look something like 2018 in terms of the economy, you should expect us to be at the mid-to-upper end of the range," CFO Jeffrey Campbell said of EPS guidance. Given the current government shutdown and other market uncertainties, the lower end of the range is there "if the economy weakens a little."

Chairman and CEO Stephen Squeri noted that American Express is coming off of six consecutive quarters of revenue growth of 8% or above. In the fourth quarter of 2018, the company reported $10.5 billion in consolidated total revenues net of interest expense, up 8% from $9.7 billion a year prior.

Squeri said the investment in customer-facing growth initiatives and new card members will provide "continued momentum" in the year ahead. The company added 12 million new cards in 2018. In response to a question about CEO expectations across the U.S., Squeri said he does not see "any pullback on the horizon" for aggregate spending.

"If the people that are spending the money are not contemplating a pullback, that gives me great confidence, especially from a commercial perspective."