Bully for Amazon ( AMZN).

The Internet retailer posted a 24% jump in first-quarter earnings to $177 million, or 41 cents a share, compared with $143 million, or 34 cents a share, in the same quarter of 2008.

Nice to see consumers still shelling out for electronics -- global sales rose 38% in that category, which includes other general merchandise. Sales of books, CDs and DVDs are gaining at a somewhat slower 7% pace, but gaining nonetheless.

Consumers in North America -- where the company generates a little more than half its revenue -- seemed especially eager to make purchases online, with a 21% increase in sales for the U.S. and Canada. Sales in the U.K., Germany, France and China gained 15%.

You may recall that big box rival Best Buy ( BBY) is still struggling and posted a decline in earnings to $570 million, or $1.35 a share, for the fiscal quarter that ended Feb. 28, compared with $737 million or $1.71 a share, the year before.

Among Web peers, Yahoo! ( YHOO) saw first-quarter net income drop almost 80% to $118 million, or 8 cents a share, from $537 million, or 11 cents a share.

Google's ( GOOG) profit looked good on the surface, with earnings of $1.42 billion, or $4.49 per share in the first quarter, compared with $1.31 billion, or $4.12 per share, the year before. But it's hard to get excited when most of the improvement came from cost cutting instead of growth, as demonstrated by the drop in net revenue to $4.07 billion from $4.08 billion.

The only thing more outrageous than Amazon kicking Google's behind in the first quarter, is Amazon's outlook for continued growth in revenue of between 6% and 17% in the second quarter while Google CEO Eric Schmidt cautioned that the current economic climate "remains tough."

The big difference is that Google gets its money from advertisers while Amazon sells straight to consumers. Seems advertisers have been a little stingy with their budgets even though the consumer is still showing signs of life.

For my part, I'm going to take the Amazon results as a sign that things are looking up.

Call me an optimist, but I like Amazon's upbeat comments better than Google's cautious tone.
Hall is the editor of TheStreet.com. Previously, he served as deputy editor and chief innovation officer at The Orange County Register and as a news manager at Bloomberg News in Frankfurt, Amsterdam and Washington, D.C. As a reporter, he covered business and financial markets, worked in both print and television in the U.S. and Europe, and conducted in-depth investigative coverage at The Journal-Gazette in Fort Wayne, Ind. His work also has been published in a variety of newspapers including The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times and International Herald Tribune. Hall received a bachelor�s degree in journalism and political science from The Ohio State University and has taken graduate management science courses at Boston University.

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