American Express beats profit estimates on strong spending by wealthy customers


American Express’s first-quarter profit vaulted past Wall Street estimates on Friday, driven by an affluent customer base that increased spending as recession fears ebbed.

The credit card giant has been immune to changes in spending and downplayed worries of an economic slump for the last two years, bucking a larger trend of consumer softness expectations.

“We continue to attract high-spending, high credit-quality customers to the franchise,” chief executive officer Stephen Squeri said in a statement.

While most U.S. lenders have expressed optimism about the resilience of American consumers so far, 11 rate hikes by the Federal Reserve over the last two years have made them susceptible to default risks and they have responded by raising provisions.

AmEx built $1.3 billion in provisions for the first quarter, compared with $1.1 billion a year earlier.

The New York-based company earned a profit of $3.33 a share for the three months ended March, up from $2.40 a share a year ago.