Shares of Amazon (NASDAQ:AMZN) are up on eBay's (NASDAQ:EBAY) reflected glory, but that could prove a dangerous game. ebay reported its second-quarter results yesterday, with admirable numbers. The company also said some bumptious things about online sales.
Specifically, eBay's Chief Executive Officer John Donahue pointed to what he termed "a staggering surge" in mobile commerce. Amazon traders promptly rejoiced.
But wait just a minute.
Donahue had every right to preen, at least as far as his company was concerned. eBay reported a really solid quarter, which included 23% revenue growth -- more than Wall Street expected -- and a double in profit, also topping estimates. PayPal, its online payment system, did well, which represents larger forces in retailing and thus probably bodes well for Amazon. But Marketplaces, eBay's approximation of Amazon's online bazaar (that's a fancy way of saying it's a direct knock-off of Amazon), also displayed considerable strength -- and that might not be a blessing for Jeff Bezos' baby.
In other words, Amazon is not the only game in e-town anymore. eBay, formerly known as the go-to site for goofy auctions of dusty Pez dispensers, is -- with Marketplaces -- going head to head with Amazon and succeeding. Traders have generally seen this coming, with eBay up well over 30% year to date, outpacing Amazon.
As it becomes more readily apparent, though -- especially with eBay's success in mobile sales -- Amazon, which has struggled to maintain margins even without a considerable amount of direct, large-scale competition, may be in for a bit of a surprise. At the very least, given that Amazon reports next Wednesday, wait it out. Don't chase Amazon on the notion that eBay's strength is automatically a good sign.
Amazon was a path breaker. But it was never made of forged steel, and eBay might just chip away. Under these circumstances, you clearly don't want to buy the stock on today's strength in the prelude to its earnings just a few days away.
Disclosure: I have no positions in any stocks mentioned, and no plans to initiate any positions within the next 72 hours.