Amazon Falls on Sales Miss

Shares of slid 8% in late trading Thursday after the company’s sales came in below Wall Street estimates.

Amazon’s fourth-quarter sales rose 17% to $2.98 billion, but analysts were expecting $3.08 billion in revenues. The company said sales were hurt by currency exchange issues.

Amazon’s first-quarter sales guidance of $2.16-$2.29 billion left room to disappoint $2.26 billion estimates.

The online retailing giant earned 47 cents a share in the fourth quarter, helped by a $38 million tax benefit. It is not clear how the number compared to Wall Street’s expectations of 21-cent a share earnings.

Amazon Prime subscriptions doubled between November and December, as customers took advantage of free shipping for the holidays.

On the conference call, analysts expressed concern about decelerating sales, competition from the likes of eBay and Google as well as traditional retailers, and the company’s continuing high rate of business investment and costs. Amazon officials expressed confidence that the company’s customer service and investment level gives it a competitive edge.

Stocks tumbled Thursday, fueled by the first quarterly decline in productivity in five years and higher than expected wage pressures. January unemployment data will be reported Friday morning.

The Nasdaq lost 29 to 2281, the S&P 500 fell 11 to 1270, and the Dow dropped 102 to 10,852. Volume rose to 2.57 billion shares on the NYSE, and 2.33 billion on the Nasdaq. Decliners led 23-9 on the NYSE, and 20-10 on the Nasdaq. Downside volume was 76% on the NYSE, and 70% on the Nasdaq. New highs-new lows were 154-46 on the NYSE, and 170-30 on the Nasdaq.

Alcatel , OpenText , Digital River , i2 , Micrel and FormFactor rose on their results.

Business Objects , Comcast , JDS Uniphase , WebSideStory , TravelZoo and Synplicity fell on their earnings reports.

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