American Express Downgraded To Neutral Vs. Buy At Nomura

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American Express Co. was downgraded to neutral from buy at Nomura on Monday, with the brokerage saying there are no positive catalysts in sight for now. "Although we continue to believe in the company's long-term earnings power and fully expect a return to 12-15% EPS growth by 2017, we see little upside to our estimates for 2015 and 2016 at this time," analyst Bill Carache wrote in a note. Shares are likely to trade in a range for the rest of 2015, he wrote. Nomura also lowered its price target on the stock to $82 from $91, implying 4.9% upside from its closing price on April 23. Carache said he expects the company to shrink its headcount, based on comments from its CEO about how the digitization of payments is transforming the payment card industry. Amex had more employees at the end of last year than its publicly traded card issuing and payment network competitors, including Capital One , which operates a larger physical bank branch infrastructure, he said. "While it is unclear how quickly headcount reductions will come, we view them as an inevitable component of AXP's ability to deliver positive operating leverage (and meet its growth targets) in the future." Shares were down 0.9% in early trade and are down 17% in the year so far, while the Dow Jones Industrial Average has gained about 2%.

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