American Express, the payments company, reported Monday (April 15) that credit card delinquency rates in March were flat with February, which should be welcome news as investors look for more signs the U.S. economy could be slowing.
According to a report in Seeking Alpha, American Express said the delinquency rate for U.S. consumer cards was 1.5 percent in March which was the same rate in February. The net charge off rate did increase slightly to 2.5 percent from 2.4 percent. On the small business front, American Express said the delinquency rate of 1.3 percent for March is also flat with February while the net charge off rate was also unchanged at 1.9 percent.
The flat credit card delinquencies in March may be well received by investors who are looking for signs that the economy is nearing a recession. JPMorgan Chase was able to post better than expected quarterly earnings late last week, pointing to strength in the economy as the driver. At the same time data points are starting to worry online lenders, which are reportedly taking steps to rein in their risk. Some are tightening credit standards for more risky borrowers while others are aiming to shore up capital. Online lenders don’t have the deposits like banks so they face higher costs of borrowing in a slower economy.
When American Express reported fourth-quarter earnings in January the payment company missed Wall Street’s estimates, planning merchant and services revenue that was lower than expectations. It was also hit by write-offs in its lending business that increases. Cardmember loan provisions were $679 million, up 21 percent from last year. In terms of headline numbers, revenues of roughly $10.5 billion were below expectations $10.6 billion. Adjusted earnings were $1.74, which missed consensus estimates by six pennies. On the consumer front revenue was up 11 percent while commercial services grew 8 percent. Net card fees increased 11 percent as well.