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Here's What to Look for When Amazon Reports Earnings Thursday

By Parkev Tatevosian – Updated Jul 22, 2020 at 5:57PM

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Will the e-commerce giant give an update on Amazon Prime members?

Amazon (AMZN 2.55%) is experiencing significant disruptions as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. While it appeared as though the outbreak was subsiding, recent surges in states such as Florida, Texas, and California are putting that into doubt. 

What's more, the $600-per-week increase in unemployment benefits expires at the end of July, potentially leaving the 25 million Americans who rely on the payments on a fiscal cliff. The resulting decrease in disposable income may reduce spending on Amazon. The increasing level of uncertainty will make July 30's earnings release an especially interesting one.

An Amazon employee making a delivery to an Amazon Prime member.

Amazon is expecting a surge in revenue when it reports Thursday. Image source: Getty Images.

Will Amazon deliver what shareholders want this quarter? 

One of the most crucial elements of the report will be the sales figure. Stay-at-home mandates created a surge in sales for Amazon as it benefited from people looking to the e-commerce giant for their essential needs. Net sales increased 26% in its fiscal first quarter to $76 billion. The company is expecting the boost in revenue will continue -- rising between 18% and 28% when it releases its second-quarter results.

It will also be vital for investors to consider expenses. Fulfilling the significant increase in orders will be no easy task. In fact, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos highlighted how difficult it would be in a company press release at the end of April.

If you're a shareowner in Amazon, you may want to take a seat, because we're not thinking small. Under normal circumstances, in this coming Q2, we'd expect to make some $4 billion or more in operating profit. But these aren't normal circumstances. Instead, we expect to spend the entirety of that $4 billion, and perhaps a bit more, on COVID-related expenses getting products to customers and keeping employees safe.

Moreover, it will be interesting to see if the company provides any updates on its Amazon Prime member totals. The most recent update was in January when the company announced it reached the 150-million member milestone. As of the end of 2019, 65% of shoppers were Prime members. Given the number of people who are turning to Amazon to reduce trips to stores, it would not be surprising for Amazon to announce a significant increase in Prime members.

Finally, investors should look at the update in its Amazon Web Services (AWS) segment. That's because even though the segment generated 13.5% of revenue in its most recent quarter, it made up 77% of total operating profit. With many retailers accelerating digital transformations, AWS may have experienced an increase in sales as a result.

What this means for investors 

The uncertainty in business activity as a result of COVID-19 makes this earnings report an important one. In normal times, most companies come pretty close to hitting their earnings estimates. However, these are anything but normal times, which could be one reason Amazon gave such a broad range in its revenue forecast. 

The only thing that appears to be certain is volatility. Shareholders and potential investors in Amazon's stock should prepare for a higher-than-usual movement in the share price following the earnings release on Thursday. 

John Mackey, CEO of Whole Foods Market, an Amazon subsidiary, is a member of The Motley Fool's board of directors. Parkev Tatevosian has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Amazon and recommends the following options: short January 2022 $1940 calls on Amazon and long January 2022 $1920 calls on Amazon. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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