SAN FRANCISCO -- Google's ( GOOG) strength is no match for the economy's weakness. The once-unshakeable Internet kingpin now sees its shares trading at a three-year low, undercut by recent analysts' reports that predict a slowdown in the fourth quarter exacerbated by continued erosion in consumer spending. But with its stock now scraping the $300 level after plunging 15% in just the last five trading sessions, some value hunters see an attractive place to wait out the worst.
On Monday, Doug Anmuth of Barclays took down his financial estimates for the company, expecting Google's revenue in the fourth quarter to be flat sequentially. Goldman Sachs analyst James Mitchell also trimmed his forecast and now anticipates revenue will grow by only 1% sequentially instead of his previous forecast calling for a 4% increase. Google's shares have sunk 57% to $311.46 in the past 12 months, and although the company topped analysts' third-quarter estimates last month under a similarly pessimistic atmosphere, it's unclear whether it can pull off a repeat performance. "Our checks with SEMs (search engine marketers) over the last several days, along with recent commentary from companies like IAC/InterActive Corp ( IACI) and InfoSpace ( INSP), lead us to believe that the weaker retail and macro environment is finally catching up with Google and search," Anmuth wrote in his research. "Our SEM checks have been mixed to negative, but indicate overall that the clear slowdown in consumer buying activity has impacted both the number of paid clicks and cost-per-click."