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Mixed Q3 results in the offing for American Express shareholders

Credit card operator American Express (AXP) is preparing for its third-quarter earnings report at a time when the financial services market is witnessing a mixed trend. Analysts expect that earnings will grow 18% to $1.78 per share in the September quarter, for which the results will be published on October 18 after the closing bell. The estimate for revenues is $10.05 billion, up 21% compared to last year.

While the ongoing weakness in top-line growth is likely to continue in the third quarter, the positive margin trend points to above-consensus earnings. Investors’ reaction to the results will largely depend on the margin at which earnings beat the forecast.

For the second quarter, the New York-based financial services firm had reported a 25% annual growth in earnings to $1.84 per share, which exceeded market expectations. Revenues moved up 9% to $10 billion but missed the street view.

The sector has been facing the challenge of muted loan demand, owing mainly to the high interest rates – a condition that often impacts the firms’ stock performance. Though the trade standoff between Washington and Beijing has added to the concerns, analysts present a positive outlook for the sector taking a cue from the uptick in economic growth and strong job market.

Americans’ growing spending power and brightening confidence are expected to continue in the long term, and the trend bodes well for credit card companies in general.

Last week, Citigroup [C] reported above-consensus earnings for the third quarter, when profit rose to $1.73 per share. At $18.4 billion, revenues fell short of analysts’ forecast. A statement from JPMorgan Chase Friday showed its earnings surged 33% to $2.34 per share in the third quarter, aided by a 5.2% growth in revenues to $27.8 billion.

Visa (V) and Mastercard (MA) are expected to report earnings for their most recent quarter on October 24 and October 30 respectively.

After hitting an all-time high in September, American Express’ stock fell back to the pre-boom levels. Over the past twelve months, the stock gained about 12%.

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