Americans are traveling and dining almost as much now as before the pandemic, AmEx CEO says

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A person wearing a mask at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport in April 2020.

Americans are dining out and traveling again.

Spending for both are nearing pre-COVID-19 pandemic levels, Steve Squeri, American Express CEO, told CNBC’s Jim Cramer on “Mad Money” on Monday.

Both travel-adjacent companies and restaurants were initially decimated when the COVID-19 pandemic first rippled across the US. But now, mass vaccination efforts, financial aid from the federal government, and improved personal finances – such as an increase in savings and low delinquencies – are pushing the return of both industries, Squeri told CNBC.

“They have the money in the bank, they’re ready to spend it, but what was holding them back was not having a comfort about being able to go out,” Jay Bryson, Wells Fargo’s chief economist, told the New York Times’ Ben Casselman in early April. “We’re getting into a critical mass of people that are feeling comfortable beginning to go out again.”

And it seems like now, the US is hitting this critical mass.

“When we look at our travel numbers, travel bookings in May were 95% of where they were in May of 2019,” said Squeri. This was without international travel.

Almost 2.1 million people traveled on June 13, according to data from the Transportation Security Administration. To compare, about 2.64 million people traveled the same day in 2019.

Read more: Can you work remotely? These 14 cities and towns will pay you up to $20,000 just to move there.

This uptick in travel, which could be foreshadowing an impending summer boom, is already being reflected in niche segments of the industry. For example, a rental car shortage is currently plaguing hot destinations like Hawaii, Florida, Phoenix, and Puerto Rico.

And Thor Industries – a major RV maker that oversees brands like Jayco and Airstream – is “pretty much sold out for the next year,” Thor’s president and CEO Bob Martin told CNBC’s Jim Cramer on “Mad Money.”

Squeri believes that by the end of this year, the US will have a “full consumer recovery” in terms of travel. “I think globally, we will probably be about 80% of where we were in 2019,” he said.

Similarly, restaurants are also “doing great,” according to Squeri, and expenses are at roughly 85% of 2019 numbers. He also notes that younger patrons are driving this boost in restaurant spending.

“The people that are really spending at restaurants [are] millennials [at] 130% in April of what they spent back in 2019,” Squeri said. “We believe that that’s going to continue to move forward.”

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Jim Cramer bought bitcoin when it was worth $12,000 – and said he recently sold half his ‘phony’ portfolio to pay off a mortgage

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CNBC ‘Mad Money’ host, Jim Cramer.

TV anchor Jim Cramer said he bought “a lot of” bitcoin when it was worth $12,000 and used some profits from his investment to pay off a home loan.

“I paid off a mortgage yesterday with it,” the “Mad Money” host said Thursday on CNBC, adding that selling half his portfolio helped him.

Bitcoin hit an all-time high of near $65,000 on Wednesday, and was last trading 4% lower around $60,600 on Friday. The digital asset’s price is up more than 105% so far this year.

“From the chart, I may be the only natural seller. But it was so great to pay off a mortgage. It was like, kind of, phony money paying for real money,” Cramer said.

“I now own a house – lock, stock and barrel – because I bought this currency.”

Cramer recently indicated he is bullish on crypto exchange Coinbase, calling it one of many “cult-assets” in the market.

In a podcast with crypto investor Anthony Pompliano last month, Cramer said he made a ton of money thanks to investing in bitcoin, and that it gave him higher gains than gold. He said he followed Pompliano’s advice and put half a million dollars into bitcoin over the course of a few days.

The TV anchor and former hedge fund manager has previously said companies are being negligent if they don’t consider adding bitcoin to their balance sheets.

“As far as a way to be able to have a pastiche of things to do with your cash, I’m all for it,” he told CNBC’s Andrew Ross Sorkin. “I think it’s almost irresponsible not to include it. Every treasurer should be going to boards of directors and saying should we put a small portion of our cash in bitcoin.”

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