Yesterday, the day of the announcement of the Part 1 trade deal between the United States and China, shares of Via (V) climbed 1.91%. MasterCard (MA) gained 1.16%. American Express rose 0.79%. On a day when the Standard & Poor’s 500 fell 0.15% and the Dow Jones Industrial Average gained just 0.11%.
Today the overall market was much stronger with the S&P 500 gaining 0.84% at the close and the Dow Industrials ahead 0.92%, but Visa (up 0.58%), MasterCard (up 1.93%) and American Express (up 0.56%) added to the previous day’s gains rather than giving ground.
What’s up with these stocks?
Turns out yesterday’s trade deal contained some “not widely anticipated” (more accurate, I think, than “surprise) good news for U.S. credit card companies that have been long looking for greater access to the Chinese market for transaction processing.
They got it. Or at least a promise of access to more of China’s $27 trillion payments market.
By the terms of the agreement China won’t take longer than 90 days to consider applications from providers of electronic-payments services such as Mastercard, Visa, and American Express. That may not sound like such a big thing but just ask Mastercard and its partner NetsUnion Clearing, which set up a joint venture back in March 2019 that is still waiting for approval to begin operating from the People’s Bank of China.
The timing is pretty good too with another Olympics–with lots of tourists–scheduled for Beijing in 2022.
Getting access to the Chinese market doesn’t make grabbing significant share in that market a slam dunk. China has its own home-grown electronic-payments providers and Chinese consumers are much more familiar these days with paying via smartphone app than by plastic credit card. And the fees that Visa and its peers charge businesses aren’t going to make it easy to gain traction in this market.
Still, being a player in China is better than being locked out of this market. And Visa, MasterCard and American Express have global brands that should make it easy to attract payment partners in China.
I wouldn’t rush out to buy any of these stocks on the news. They’re expensive after big runs in 2019. Morningstar calls Visa 20% overvalued; MasterCard 17% overvalued; and American Express fairly valued. But I do think that the news is enough so that if you own any of these, especially either Visa or MasterCard, it’s worth holding for the completion of this advance.
I own shares of Visa in my Jubak Picks Portfolio. The position is up 218.41 since November 5, 2014.