Amazon (AMZN -0.17%) has been one of the best investments on the market ever, delivering gains in the hundreds of thousands over its two-and-a-half decades as a publicly traded company.

In the current unstable economy, Amazon has come into some trouble with both growth and profitability. But winners keep on winning, as this Buffett stock usually demonstrates. How should we approach Amazon stock in this market?

The bull case

Jennifer Saibil: Amazon disappointed investors with its fourth-quarter outlook in the recent third-quarter report. But the third quarter itself was strong, with a 15% sales increase despite pressure from inflation and the strong American dollar.

Management expects sales to increase year over year in the fourth quarter as well, although only 5% at the midpoint. Product sales, specifically from the holiday season, are baked into that guidance.

However, AWS sales are part of that as well, and AWS growth backed down a bit in the third quarter for the first time in a long time. Companies are feeling the crunch of inflation, and that affects their ability to purchase cloud solutions.

In this economy, Amazon is making its best effort to drive sales and wait for better times ahead. The good news is that Amazon has a large moat that protects its business and provides it with enormous growth opportunities.

As of March, there were more than 200 million Prime members. Since then, company updates have signaled huge amounts of new signups, and that number could be meaningfully larger. Including Prime, Amazon says it has over 300 million active accounts. These customers are highly engaged with Amazon's platform and are reliable sources of revenue generation. 

Amazon said that Prime day, in July, was its biggest ever by net sales. Amazon uses the money it gets from this core business to power all of its other businesses, some of which are complementary and others that are completely separate.

It has dived into new businesses through acquisitions as well as its own development, some of which have taken off and some of which have fallen flat. The ones that make it, like AWS, more than make up for the ones that don't.

That's how Amazon has created an empire that's so much more than e-commerce, and that's how it will continue to dominate in the years to come.

The bear case

Adria Cimino: Considering rising inflation and current economic woes, Amazon's troubled times may not be over.

The company is hurt by inflation in two ways. First, Amazon faces higher costs for things essential to its business -- like transporting packages. That's because fuel and other related expenses have increased. Second, Amazon's customers may spend less as the pressure of inflation weighs on their wallets.

Until recently, the spending problem mainly concerned Amazon's e-commerce business. But as of the third quarter, even Amazon's big profit driver Amazon Web Services posted a slowdown in growth.

The cloud computing unit said its customers have started reducing their spending. And that means they're going for less expensive options among AWS' suite of products. So, AWS may not be able to cushion Amazon from the crisis as much as it seemed earlier in the year.

All of this has hurt Amazon's earnings. For example, in the third quarter, the company's operating income decreased to $2.5 billion. That's about half of what it was in the year-earlier period.

Amazon's operating cash flow also has been on the decline for the past few quarters. And free cash flow has switched to an outflow of more than $19 billion for the trailing 12 months.

Amazon is working on improving its cost structure and gaining productivity across its fulfillment network. And it's important to remember that today's economic troubles won't last forever. Still, it likely will take some time for Amazon to recover from the current situation -- and return to growth.

Amazon's leadership in e-commerce and cloud computing means its long-term picture is bright. But, in the meantime, you may be in for a bumpy ride if you invest right now. This means cautious investors may be better off waiting for signs of progress before buying Amazon shares.

Should you buy Amazon stock now?

Investors shouldn't expect Amazon stock to post huge gains any time soon. That said, many stocks are in the same boat right now, and Amazon's struggles as a business aren't exclusive to it, either. 

There are some value stocks and dividend stocks that are gaining or providing passive income even while the stock market is down, and investors should have some of those in a diversified portfolio. If you have a long-term horizon, you can take advantage of Amazon's lowered price for a better entry point even today.