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) --


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Tablet jitters might well skew investors outlook for


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. But the e-retailer is poised to deliver yet another strong quarter when it reports after the close on Thursday.

Investors, of course, are not wrong to fear that an

Apple tablet

, which is slated to be unveiled today, could pose a threat to Amazon's Kindle electronic reader.

But while this is a possibility, the dominance of online sales during the holiday period paint an optimistic picture for Amazon's future.

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Internet sales, on the whole, grew 5% to $27 billion during the period, according to comScore. And Amazon is expected to be among the biggest gainer of the holidays, even as it went head-to-head with


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over discounts.

According to comScore, Amazon's traffic soared 20% year-over-year in the fourth quarter. And for the third month in a row the site has attracted more unique visitors than all of


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Of the top six retail sites, only Apple and

Best Buy

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experienced as much growth, with unique visitors up 25% and 15%, respectively.

Analysts are calling for earnings of 72 cents a share on revenue of $9.04 billion in the fourth quarter. And Citigroup analyst Mark Mahaney believes these estimates are conservative, with more probability for an upside than downside.

Indeed, Amazon was upgraded Wednesday morning to buy from hold buy Kaufman Bros. The firm expects strong fourth-quarter results, and believes the stock offers and attractive risk reward after falling about 15% since mid-December.

The Apple Tablet wouldn't be the first time Amazon has faced increasing competition for its Kindle. Companies like

Barnes & Noble

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launched similar, or beefed up devices, over the holidays.

Amazon fought back by launching an international version of its Kindle. It also cut $40 off the price of the device.

And while the company has not revealed how many Kindles it has sold so far, on Christmas Day Amazon sold more e-books than hard copies for the first time ever.

Last week, rival

eBay reported better-than-expected fourth-quarter earnings

, boosted by the sale of its Skype business and growth in PayPal.

And yesterday the company announced that it will cut auction fees for certain sellers who only list items occasionally, a move to gain more users. Instead eBay will take a cut from the final selling price.

-- Reported by Jeanine Poggi in New York.

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