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Citi downgrades American Express to sell ahead of a recession

It’s time to sell American Express , according to Citi. Analyst Arren Cyganovich downgraded shares of American Express to sell from neutral, after modeling in a mild downturn for finance stocks during a recession period. “As Citi’s economics team has forecast a modest US recession as a base case in 2H23, we felt it was prudent to assume a mild recession in our consumer finance stocks,” Cyganovich wrote in a Thursday note. “While the recession is projected to be mild, the impact to our EPS can be rather large as we are coming off of record low credit losses and are now forecasting slightly higher than normal credit losses in 2024,” he wrote. While some consumer finance stocks, such as Ally Financial and Capital One, have more than priced in a recession scenario, shares of American Express can be further challenged, according to the analyst. The analyst’s $130 price target, lowered from $159, implies roughly 5% downside from Wednesday’s closing price of $136.22. The stock is up 0.4% in Thursday premarket trading. “Our downgrade of American Express reflects our view that potential for lower billed business has not been fully contemplated by investors as spending volume in past recessions has turned negative (we are modeling a slowdown to 2% growth but not negative),” he wrote. Still, in spite of the negative outlook, the analyst said he expects shares of American Express could “modestly outperform” after reporting third-quarter results given the strength of recent consumer spending trends. –CNBC’s Michael Bloom contributed to this report.

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