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Will Kindle Fire Sales Ignite Amazon Earnings?

Online retail giant (AMZN) will slip into the earnings confessional after the close of trading this afternoon, and expectations appear to be running high ahead of the event. Wall Street is currently expecting a fourth-quarter profit of 19 cents per share from Amazon, a figure that is down sharply from earnings of 91 cents per share in the same quarter last year. Revenue, meanwhile, is seen rising more than 40% to $18.3 billion.The whisper number rests a penny higher at earnings of 20 cents per share.Aside from the fundamental figures, Wall Street will be keeping an eye out for any data regarding the company’s blockbuster Google Android-based tablet, the Kindle Fire. Amazon typically does not release Kindle sales numbers, but analysts project that the company sold between 4 and 6 million Kindle Fire units alone.The company launched the Kindle Fire for $200 in mid-November, and it is believed that Amazon sells each unit at or near a loss, meaning that a spike in sales could put pressure on the company’s margins and bottom line earnings figures (hence expectations for a 79% year-over-year drop in fourth-quarter earnings).Historically, Amazon has a shaky history in the earnings limelight. During the prior four reporting periods the company has missed Wall Street’s expectations twice and matched views twice. As a result, Amazon has averaged a downside surprise of more than 14%.Judging by analyst ratings, the brokerage community isn’t overly concerned with poor fundamental showing. Specifically, data from Thomson/First Call reveals that 25 of the 40 analysts following AMZN rate the stock a Buy or better, compared to 14 Holds and just one Sell rating.Furthermore, the average 12-month price target arrives at $240 – a premium of 25% to the stock’s current perch just north of $191. This configuration opens the door for potential downgrades or price-target cuts in the event of a disappointing fourth-quarter showing.Options traders are also heavily bullish on Amazon. For instance, the there are more than 32,000 calls open in the weekly February series of options, compared to put open interest of only about 20,000 contracts. The result is a weekly February put/call open interest ratio of 0.63. With these options expiring at the end of the week, this attention toward calls hints at a considerably optimistic outlook from this highly speculative group.Peak call open interest in the weekly February series resides at the out-of-the-money 225 strike, where more than 6,500 contracts reside. The 200 call is also notable, as some 4,300 contracts are open at this weekly strike. On the put side, peak open interest lies at the out-of-the-money 185 strike, totaling roughly 3,600 contracts.

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