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Credit card behemoth American Express Company (AXP Free American Express Stock Report) has provided some details in regard to its December-period financial results, which will formally be released on January 17th. Management mentioned that cardmember spending increased nicely, up 8% year over year. In addition, the provision for loan losses remained at a very manageable level, thanks to the company's affluent customer base.

Management also provided some color in regard to restructuring efforts and other operational changes. During the December quarter, several charges were realized: $400 million ($287 million after tax) designed to contain future operating expenses; $342 million ($212 million after tax) toward future redemptions of Membership Rewards points; and $153 million ($95 million after tax) for cardmember reimbursements.

We consider these charges to be one-time in nature. Excluding these expenses, the company announced that net income was $1.2 billion, or $1.09 per share, which mirrored our estimate. Following the announcement, shares of American Express advanced modestly.

Looking ahead, we continue to like this Dow component. In our view, thanks to an improving U.S. economy, cardmember spending will continue to increase at a healthy rate over the next several years. Amex's top and bottom lines ought to be further helped by recoveries in the U.S. housing and job markets. All told, the stock possesses worthwhile total-return potential and may be of particular interest to conservative, long-term investors.

At the time of this article’s writing, the author did not have positions in any of the companies mentioned.