eBay's ( EBAY) star may have waned during the recession, but the online auction site could still offer some upside when it reports its second-quarter results after market close. With rival Amazon ( AMZN) reporting its own second-quarter results later this week, the spotlight is on online retail, which has certainly felt the effectsof the economic slowdown. Whereas Amazon appears to have weathered the worst of the economic storm, eBay has taken a pounding. During the first quarter, eBay's sales dipped more than $171 million year over year to $2.02 billion. The company partly blamed weakness in its core Marketplaces business for the slump, although the strong dollar and tough macroeconomic conditions hardly helped. Marketplaces, which includes eBay, Shopping.com, StubHub, Kijiji and a number of other e-commerce sites, saw revenue plummet 18% compared to the prior year's quarter. eBay's PayPal and Skype businesses were much healthier, though, and the firm predicted second-quarter revenue between $1.85 billion and $2.05 billion. Excluding charges, the firm expects earnings between 34 cents a share and 36 cents a share. Analysts surveyed by Thomson Reuters are looking for the auction site to report revenue of $1.99 billion and earnings of 36 cents a share. Even if eBay posts these numbers, however, it would still mark the company's third consecutive quarter of negative growth. But there could be still be some positives for investors. The buzz that once surrounded eBay may have now faded, but at least one analyst is expecting to see some good things from the San Jose, Calif.-based firm.
"We expect in-line Q2 results," wrote Youssef Squali, an analyst at Jefferies & Company, in a note released this week. The gross value of merchandise sold on eBay is expected to bottom out, and online payments should post healthy gains, he added. Squali isn't getting carried away, however. The analyst expects eBay to offer a conservative outlook for the second half of the year thanks partly to its ongoing attempts to turn around the Marketplaces business. He nonetheless maintained his eBay Buy rating and $23 price target, citing an attractive valuation. The company's stock has almost doubled in value since the beginning of March, and is currently trading around the $19 mark. Google's ( GOOG) recent results and Yahoo!'s ( YHOO) solid Q2 numbers have also raised expectations about Internet spending, prompting speculation that eBay and Amazon could reap the benefits. eBay, however, is facing stiff competition from Overstock.com ( OSTK) and Craigslist and has been struggling with falling traffic. Research from analyst firm comScore, for example, reveals that eBay's U.S. user traffic is down year over year, although the pace of decline slowed during the second quarter.