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Amazon earnings demolish expectations: 5 metrics you should see

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Amazon (NASDAQ:AMZN) reported powerful first-quarter 2021 results after the market close on Thursday. Shares of the e-commerce and cloud-computing leader rose 2.4% in Thursday’s after-hours trading session.

We can probably attribute the market’s initial reaction to both revenue and earnings sailing by the Wall Street consensus estimates, as well as second-quarter revenue guidance coming in higher than analysts had been expecting. Here’s an overview of the technology-giant’s quarter, along with its guidance.

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1. Revenue surged 44%

Amazon’s net quarterly sales surged 44% year over year to $108.5 billion, beating the $104.5 billion Wall Street had expected. The company also comfortably surpassed its guidance range of $100 billion to $106 billion. Excluding the boost from foreign-currency exchange, revenue jumped 41%. For context, in the first, second, third, and fourth quarters of 2020, Amazon’s year-over-year revenue growth was 26%, 40%, 37%, and 44%, respectively. Here’s how revenue broke down by segment:


Q1 2021 Revenue 

Change (YOY)

North America

$64.4 billion



$30.6 billion


Amazon Web Services (AWS)

$13.5 billion



$108.5 billion



Amazon’s e-commerce businesses around the world continued to get a boost from the COVID-19 pandemic. Many consumers are still avoiding brick-and-mortar stores as much as possible. For context, last quarter (the holiday quarter), year-over-year revenue growth in the company’s North America, international, and AWS segments was 40%, 57%, and 28%, respectively.

2. Operating income soared 123%

Operating income increased 123% year over year to $8.9 billion, which crushed Amazon’s guidance of $3 billion to $6.5 billion.


Q1 2021 Operating Income

Change (YOY)

North America

$3.5 billion



$1.3 billion

N/A. Improved from a loss of $398 million in the year-ago period.


$4.2 billion



$8.9 billion



3. EPS more than tripled

Net income rocketed 224% year over year to $8.1 billion. This translated to earnings per share (EPS) growing 215% to $15.79. Wall Street was only expecting EPS of $9.54.

4. Operating cash flow jumped 69%

Operating cash flow increased 69% year over year to $67.2 billion for the trailing 12 months. Free cash flow rose 9% over the same period to $26.4 billion.

5. Second-quarter 2021 revenue is expected to grow 24% to 30%

For Q2, Amazon guided for net sales in the range of $110 billion to $116 billion, which would equate to year-over-year growth of 24% to 30%. This outlook assumes Prime Day will occur in the second quarter, as it traditionally does. (Last year, it was held in the third quarter due to the pandemic.) The company’s entire guidance range exceeds Wall Street’s consensus estimate of $108.7 billion.

Amazon (which doesn’t provide earnings guidance) also expects that its operating income will be between $4.5 billion and $8 billion, compared with $5.8 billion in the year-ago period. That range means management thinks operating income could decline by as much as 22% or rise by as much as 38%. This outlook includes about $1.5 billion in costs related to COVID-19.

For some context, going into the report, Wall Street had been modeling for Q2 EPS growth of 5% year over year.

In short, Amazon turned in a super quarter — again — and its outlook remains bright.

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John Mackey, CEO of Whole Foods Market, an Amazon subsidiary, is a member of The Motley Fool’s board of directors. Beth McKenna has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool UK has no position of any of the stocks mentioned. Views expressed on the companies mentioned in this article are those of the writer and therefore may differ from the official recommendations we make in our subscription services such as Share Advisor, Hidden Winners and Pro. Here at The Motley Fool we believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors.

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