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    Friday, February 2, 2024

    Amazon Soars as AI, Retail Strength Power Revenue Growth

    Amazon shares jumped 6% before the bell on Friday after the e-commerce heavyweight reported higher-than-expected holiday-quarter sales and profited from its fast-growing AI-powered cloud business.

    The company joined fellow Big Tech firms including Microsoft (MSFT.O), opens new tab in starting to see overall results benefiting from their heavy AI investments, while also outlining more spending in 2024 to develop the much-hyped tech.

    "Most encouraging to us is that in spite of strong numbers ... several of the most important, incremental drivers have really only just begun (for Amazon)," RBC Capital Markets analyst Brad Erickson said.

    At least eight brokerages raised their price target on the stock as the retail giant posted a 14% rise in sales in the holiday quarter, pointing to strong online spending despite a strained economy.

    "We believe Amazon is executing extremely well and the challenges the company faced in Retail during the pandemic and in AWS through optimizations will make the company stronger on the other side," J.P.Morgan analysts said in a note. The brokerage was one of the most bullish on the stock, raising its price target by $35 to $225.

    Shares of the company, which rose 81% in 2023, were trading at $168.39 before the bell, a day after Amazon also forecast current-quarter revenue to be as much as $143.5 billion. Analysts had expected $142.13 billion, according to LSEG data.

    "The real reaction is to their guidance, where other tech firms have been softening revenue ranges and earnings per share targets, Amazon has come out with a much higher than expected range," said Jamie Meyers, senior analyst at Laffer Tengler Investments, which holds shares of Microsoft, Alphabet and Amazon.

    As of last close, the stock was trading at 40.51 times its forward earnings per share, compared with 31.57 for cloud rival Microsoft, opens new tab and 23.75 for retail competitor Walmart, opens new tab.

    Amazon is set to add more than $100 billion to its market capitalization if premarket gains hold.

    Despite hefty investments this year going into building cloud infrastructure to support the rapid adoption of generative AI technology, investors were bullish.

    "I would expect that the recent state of generative AI investments should eventually lead to strong return on investment," said Krishna Chintalapalli, portfolio manager at shareholder Parnassus Investments.

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