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American Express CEO: 'We aren't seeing recessionary signals'

Economists may be on recession watch, but American Express (AXP) CEO Stephen Squeri says he still isn't seeing spending trends that would suggest a downturn is in the cards.

"We aren't seeing recessionary signals," Squeri told Yahoo Finance moments after the card giant's fourth-quarter earnings hit the wires.

AmEx saw fourth-quarter sales at its U.S. consumer services and commercial segments rise 23% and 15%, respectively. The credit card giant guided to full-year sales growth of 15% to 17%. Earnings are expected to be in the range of $11 to $11.40. Analysts were looking for $10.52.

US Open American Express Fan Experience at the 2019 US Open Tennis Championship on August 24, 2019 in Queens, NY. (Photo by Brad Barket/Getty Images)
US Open American Express Fan Experience at the 2019 US Open Tennis Championship on August 24, 2019 in Queens, NY. (Photo by Brad Barket/Getty Images)

The company did come in light on earnings and volume versus Wall Street estimates.

"The only thing that we saw in the fourth quarter was small business, some decrease in spend, not as much growth in spending, really in digital advertising, so we're going to watch that. I'm not sure what that's really a function of right now - whether it's a function of the economy or of confusion on where to advertise right now… there is a lot going on in technology right now. We're going to watch that, but the consumer is really strong, travel bookings are up over 50% vs pre-pandemic…. T&E spending is still really strong with the consumer…. We're feeling good," Squeri added.

Here is how American Express performed compared to Wall Street estimates:

  • Net Sales: $14.2 billion vs. $14.21 billion

  • Diluted EPS: $2.07 vs. $2.21

Shares popped 5% in pre-market trading as investors ignored the earnings miss and locked in on an upbeat outlook.

AmEx's upbeat outlook comes on the heels of solid sales trends so far in January over at Visa and Mastercard, both of which reported earnings this week.

Squeri's bullish economic take echoes those from other CEOs this earnings season, including Bank of America's Brian Moynihan, who described the American consumer as "resilient" in a Yahoo Finance Live interview.

While BofA is in the "mild" recession camp, Moynihan noted that consumers continue to spend at a brisk pace to kick off 2023.

"They're spending nicely," Moynihan added. "The money in their accounts continues to be solid."

Brian Sozzi is an editor-at-large and anchor at Yahoo Finance. Follow Sozzi on Twitter @BrianSozzi and on LinkedIn.

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