Michael P. Regan is a Bloomberg Gadfly columnist covering equities and financial services. He has covered stocks for Bloomberg News as a columnist and editor since 2007. He previously worked for the Associated Press.
The moonshot in Amazon.com's shares last year catapulted it into the top 10 biggest companies in the U.S. by market value.
And, from a trading perspective, that's sort of peculiar because the stock has some characteristics that make it look a lot more like a penny stock than a stable stalwart of the blue-chip pile.
For starters, how much money Amazon.com is expected to make in any given quarter is anyone's guess. Its earnings guidance for the fourth quarter was a mile wide -- from $80 million to $1.28 billion. In the previous quarter, it was a loss of $480 million to a profit of $70 million.
As a result, Amazon's reported results are often way off the mark compared with Wall Street expectations. Fourth-quarter net income came in Thursday at $482 million. While that was a record, it was well below the average analyst estimate for $742.9 million, and its shares took a beating. That's not very unusual. Its "absolute surprise" -- the average percentage by which it either beats or misses Bloomberg's consensus estimate -- is off the charts when compared with the rest of the top 10 companies:
Consequently the shares, which dropped as much as 10 percent on Friday, tend to gain or fall way more than most of the other big companies after they report their earnings:
Does this matter? One possible effect could be the type of investors who buy the stock. Pension funds, which tend to not be big fans of volatility, appear less interested in Amazon than the other big companies:
Still, the shares managed to more than double last year, as investors presumably overlooked nose-bleed valuations and bet the profits will continue to swell amid steady, standout growth in sales.
It's doubtful Amazon will start behaving like a grown-up company anytime soon, even though the stock has been around longer than Facebook or Google . Its earnings forecast for the current quarter is anywhere from $100 million to $700 million.
"It feels every bit like Day 1," founder and CEO Jeff Bezos said in the earnings statement.
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