Amazon stock pops as earnings beat

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Hamza Shaban

Amazon (AMZN) reported fourth quarter earnings that beat analysts’ expectations Thursday and delivered an optimistic outlook for the months ahead.

The stock climbed 7% higher in extended trading.

Net sales came in at nearly $170 billion versus expectations of $166.2 billion. That’s 14% higher than the almost $150 billion the company generated during the same period in the prior year. The outlook for the current quarter also surpassed forecasts, with the company estimating an upper range of $143.5 billion.

“This Q4 was a record-breaking Holiday shopping season and closed out a robust 2023 for Amazon,” said CEO Andy Jassy in the earnings release.

Amazon’s muscular earnings report and subsequent investor response followed more critical receptions to some of its Big Tech siblings, which also largely beat estimates.

Here are some of Amazon’s most significant metrics compared to what Wall Street was expecting in the company’s fiscal fourth quarter, according to data from Bloomberg:

  • Revenue: $169.9 billion vs. $166.2 billion expected ($149.2 billion in Q4 2022)

  • Adjusted earnings per share: $1.00 vs $0.78 expected ($0.03 in Q4 2022)

  • Amazon Web Services: $24.20 billion vs $24.22 billion expected ($21.4 billion in Q4 2022)

  • Advertising: $14.7 billion vs. $14.2 billion expected ($11.6 billion in Q4 2022)

On Thursday the company also unveiled a new shopping assistant dubbed Rufus, trained on Amazon’s product catalog and broader information from the web. The generative AI-powered tool can answer customer questions and recommend products on the Amazon mobile app. Amazon said a small subset of customers will initially be able to use the chatbot and then the company will widen its release to more users in the US.

Amazon’s results arrive just weeks after the company eliminated several hundred roles across Prime Video and MGM Studios and announced a major reduction in staff at its video game livestreaming platform, Twitch, laying off more than 500 people. Staff cuts across tech highlight the sector’s painful climb down from an era of rapid expansion, as companies are still resizing and retreating from ambitious investments made during the early stages of the pandemic.

Executives said during the earnings call that it is still early days for deployment of AI products, but that revenues are “accelerating rapidly” as customers express interest in developing AI tools.

CEO Andy Jassy said that every consumer business at Amazon is developing multiple generative AI applications.

The company sees the potential for AI development to generate tens of billions of dollars for its cloud business. AI tools require huge amounts of data and processing power to train and run large language models and their applications, relying on cloud providers to provide vital infrastructure.

Amazon said that capital expenditures will increase in 2024, in large part due to the expansion of its AI operations. Cloud rivals Microsoft (MSFT) and Alphabet (GOOG, GOOGL) both reported double digit capex increases earlier this week.

Amazon began displaying ads on its streaming service Prime Video in recent days. Executives declined to share estimates on the scale of the new ads operation, but noted that expanding advertising on its streaming properties is an important part of its business model to continue investing in content. They anticipate that Prime Video will not present a heavy ad load for audiences, compared to network TV and others services.

Earlier this week Amazon’s streaming service, Prime Video, began playing ads alongside movies and shows as the default option for users, who can pay extra for an ad-free version. Analysts have noted the significant potential for ad growth given the massive scale of Amazon’s built-in audience.

FILE - The price of Amazon stock is shown on a screen at the Nasdaq MarketSite, Wednesday, Dec. 20, 2017, in New York. Amazon reports their earnings on Thursday, Feb. 1, 2024. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan, File)

The price of Amazon stock is shown on a screen at the Nasdaq MarketSite, Wednesday, Dec. 20, 2017, in New York. (Mark Lennihan/AP Photo, File) (ASSOCIATED PRESS)

In September, the company launched its AI service, dubbed Amazon Bedrock, which allows customers to build generative AI applications through existing models offered by Anthropic, Stability AI, and Amazon itself.

That same month Amazon also said it would invest up to $4 billion in the AI startup Anthropic as the biggest players in tech scramble for positioning in what they see as the coming age of the technology.

Amazon Web Services, the biggest player in the cloud industry, claims about 30% of market share, followed by Microsoft Azure and Google Cloud. The trio collectively account for roughly two-thirds of the market.

Hamza Shaban is a reporter for Yahoo Finance covering markets and the economy. Follow Hamza on Twitter @hshaban.

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