An Amazon Quarter Disappoints But Not For The Usual Reasons

You know what an “Amazon quarter” feels like right? Lots of revenue growth but no earnings as capital spending eats profits?

Well, that’s sort of what the company delivered today. But not quite. And the not quite is important.

Usually an Amazon quarter is distinguished by a big jump in capital spending and operating expenses. We certainly got that this quarter. Operating expenses during the third quarter climbed 26%, the steepest rise in more than a year, to $66.8 billion. Shipping costs soared 46% to $9.6 billion. Amazon’s costs for technology and content–largely the cost of employees in research and development and infrastructure for AWS data centers–jumped 28% to $9.2 billion as the company increased the size of its workforce by 22%

But usually investors and traders are willing to look past that jump in costs because revenue growth is so strong. Not so this quarter, however.

Revenue for the company as a whole climbed by “just” 24% and Amazon cut guidance for the key fourth quarter holiday shopping period to show revenue of $80 billion to $86.5 billion. That is below the $87.1 billion expected by Wall Street analysts.

Part of the problem this quarter and it looks like next quarter as well are that the growth rate for the company’s cloud business, AWS, is slowing. Revenue this quarter from the cloud division increased 35%. That’s slower than analysts had expected, slower than the 37% growth rate in the second quarter, and the slowest growth rate for the cloud business in more than five years. It wasn’t a huge miss–analysts had expected $9.1 billion in revenue from AWS thus quarter and got instead $9 billion–but it was a miss. And the miss looks particularly bad after Microsoft reported growth for its cloud platform Azure near 60% yesterday.

Amazon shares closed the regular session up 1.06% but got clobbered in after-hours trading with a drop of 6.61%.

Amazon is a member of my long-term 50 Stocks Portfolio. Before the after-hours slaughter the shares were up 186.99% since I added them to this portfolio on April 19, 2016. At the close the stock was up 19% for 2019 to data. Amazon does trade roughly 12% below its July 15, 2019 high.