NU Online News Service, July 29, 2003, 5:57 p.m. EDT – American Express Company, New York, says the rebound in the stock market, improved stability of its investments and strong fixed annuity sales helped improve earnings at its American Express Financial Advisors unit.

The company as a whole is reporting $762 million in net income for the second quarter on $6.4 billion in revenue, up from $683 million in net income on $5.9 billion in revenue for the second quarter of 2002.

AEFA is reporting $157 million in net income on $1.5 billion in revenue, up from $145 million in net income on $1.4 billion in revenue, according to the American Express financial supplement.

AEFA still has about 6% of its portfolio invested in high-yield, low-rated bonds. The share in low-rated bonds is about the same as it was a year ago, American Express says.

But “overall credit quality reflected improving default rates compared to last year,” the company says in a discussion of its results.

The difference between what the company paid on fixed annuities and fixed insurance policies and what it earned on its own investments was smaller during the second quarter than it was during the second quarter of 2002.

Some insurers have reported recently that they have responded to spread compression by intentionally reducing sales of fixed annuities, but American Express says AEFA increased its sales of fixed annuities and fixed accounts within variable annuities 26% during the latest quarter.