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Little Regard for Amazon’s Prospects So Far This Year

Douglas A. McIntyre

Over the course of the past month, shares of Amazon.com Inc. (AMZN) have risen only 1%, which is slightly less than the S&P 500. If Wall Street believed that the huge e-commerce company had a surge in holiday sales, that optimism did not correlate with the stock price. Or it could have been that the high end of Amazon's fourth-quarter forecast was simply two high -- an increase of 25% to $26.5 billion.

Much of Amazon's success depends on the results of retailers whose products produce the biggest sales. The first of these is consumer electronics. Best Buy Co. Inc. (BBY) posted much worse than expected earnings and its share price sank. One theory about Best Buy's problem is that Amazon took market share from it as has happened for years. The other theory is that consumer electronics sales in general did poorly during the final month of the holiday season.

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The key to Amazon's success has often been linked to the Kindle. The Kindle Fire HDX 8.9" sells for $379. The tablet competes with Apple Inc.'s (AAPL) iPad Air, which sells for $499, and the Samsung Galaxy Note 8.0, which retails for $359, a price dropped from $399.

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The Kindle tablet is one of the products Amazon uses to push its Prime package -- a combination of video streaming and special overnight delivery prices. This service sells for $79 per year.

E-commerce sales, in general, fell below expectations during this past holiday season. Amazon has a large enough share of e-commerce, and the overall failure of this sector to meet Wall Street expectations may have undermined Amazon's prospects. According to research firm comScore:

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[H]oliday season U.S. retail e-commerce spending from desktop computers for the full November-December 2013 holiday season, showing that $46.5 billion was spent online from desktop devices, an increase of 10 percent vs. year ago. While this year’s spending total represents a record for online holiday spending and a double-digit gain from last year, it nevertheless fell short of comScore’s forecasted 14-percent growth of $48.1 billion in desktop spending.

NRF results were not much better:

November and December sales, increased 3.8 percent to $601.8 billion, which was in line with NRF’s projected forecast of 3.9 percent and $602.1 billion. In addition, non-store holiday sales, which is an indicator of online and e-commerce sales, grew 9.3 percent to $95.7 billion.

Data for the industry hardly support good holiday numbers for Amazon sales, and the markets have acknowledged that.

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