Here's How Disappointed

Russia's saber-rattling (and actual saber-unsheathing) in or around Ukraine has been weighing on the mind of the market since yesterday -- this is as good an explanation as can be found for stocks' lower open on Friday morning. The S&P 500 and the narrower Dow Jones Industrial Average are down 0.4% and 0.57%, respectively, at 10:20 a.m. EDT. Microsoft , which reported solid quarterly results after the bell yesterday, is bucking the trend: shares are up 1.2%. (Here is my review of the company's results.) By contrast,'s earnings report, which also came in yesterday afternoon, is getting a cold reception from investors; the e-commerce king's shares, down 8.5%, are significantly lagging the market this morning.

Strictly in terms of its headline first-quarter numbers, Amazon did enough to satisfy, if not delight, investors: revenue of $19.7 billion exceeded analysts' consensus estimate by 2%, as did EBITDA of $1.5 billion. (EBITDA, or earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization, is a rough measure of cash flow.) Meanwhile, earnings per share of $0.23 was in line with Wall Street's expectations, though analysts' EPS forecast had come down from $0.54 three months ago.

Putting aside the rigmarole of the Wall Street earnings game for a moment, it's worth pointing out that those numbers are impressive by any reasonable standard (although not, seemingly, impressive enough by the standard of Amazon's valuation): revenue rose 23% year on year, while EPS shot up 27%.

Perhaps it's the company's guidance for the quarter in progress that has investors spooked. The revenue range of $18.1 billion to $19.8 billion is approximately in line with analysts' forecasts of $19.03 billion; however, Amazon expects an operating loss of between $55 million and $455 million (no, the $455 million is not a typo; yes, it's a wide range). Even once you back out the $455 million for stock-based compensation and amortization of intangibles the company is assuming, that gets us to an operating profit range of zero to $55 million. That doesn't get us anywhere near the $0.24 per share analysts were seeking.

As I alluded to above, the main criterion by which yesterday's report was disappointing, as far as long-term investors are concerned, is the share valuation itself. At 132 times next 12 months' earnings-per-share estimate, it takes a certain amount of faith to make a long-term bet on Amazon, a faith that is easily dented by a negative earnings surprise (or even the prospect of one). Still, Amazon isn't slowing down when it comes to ambition and creativity; as such, I think growth investors should consider continuing to give Jeff Bezos the benefit of the doubt.

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Alex Dumortier, CFA has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends The Motley Fool owns shares of and Microsoft. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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