In reporting third-quarter earnings Tuesday, down 73 percent and almost comically below expectations, Amazon reverted to its old Ama-bomb form.
The company is building out costs with a reckless abandon. Margins are so small that traders need to squint to see them. Amazon is spending money, though, in the hope that it will eventually lead to sales--enough sales to surmount the costs.
At several times in Amazon's history, this grandiose build-up in costs has worked. It has--you guessed it--led to increased sales over time. Bloomberg, though, doesn't give a nod to this history. They spend time and space talking about how much money Jeff Bezos lost with the sharp drop in the price of his Amazon's holdings (an irrelevancy to traders) but nothing on history.
Investor's Business Daily also ignores history.
The Financial Times mentions Amazon's history of investing then surmounting its pile of costs, but fails to mention another important factor: this time might be different. In the past, Amazon has invested in, say, distribution centers--and it's doing that here. But Amazon is also investing in shipping like never before through it's Prime program, which is costing it bundles. And it's selling the Fire, its popular tablet device, at a loss, even as it's also spending to build up all the digital content that it hopes to peddle through the Fire.
In other words, Amazon is spending on many different fronts. Just as Amazon's history should not be ignored, neither should these new twists. Too often, the business media ignore one or both.
At the time of publication, Fuchs had no positions in any of the stocks mentioned in this column.
Marek Fuchs was a stockbroker for Shearson Lehman Brothers and a money manager before becoming a journalist who wrote The New York Times' "County Lines" column for six years. He also did back-up beat coverage of The New York Knicks for the paper's Sports section for two seasons and covered other professional and collegiate sports. He has contributed frequently to many of the Times' other sections, including National, Metro, Escapes, Style, Real Estate, Arts & Leisure, Travel, Money & Business, Circuits and the Op-Ed Page.
For his "Business Press Maven" column on how business and finance are covered by the media, Fuchs was named best business journalist critic in the nation by the Talking Biz website at The University of North Carolina School of Journalism and Mass Communication. Fuchs is a frequent speaker on the business media, in venues ranging from National Public Radio to the annual conference of the Society of American Business Editors and Writers.
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