updated 1/29/2009 6:31:02 PM ET 2009-01-29T23:31:02

Amazon.com Inc. said Thursday that its fourth-quarter profit rose 9 percent and easily surpassed analysts' forecasts. Those results, plus an optimistic forecast, sent its shares soaring 13 percent in extended trading.

Amazon had called the holiday season its "best ever," and the earnings report backed up the idea that the online retailer is not being seriously hurt by cutbacks in consumer spending. Amazon said its revenue in the current quarter should be between $4.53 billion and $4.93 billion, while analysts are expecting $4.57 billion.

Shares of the Seattle-based company shot up $6.39, or 12.8 percent, to $56.39 in after-hours trading. The stock had fallen 36 cents to finish regular trading at $50.

Amazon said its profit in the fourth quarter was $225 million, or 52 cents per share. Analysts, on average, had been expecting 39 cents per share, according to Thomson Reuters.

Revenue rose 18 percent to $6.7 billion, exceeding analyst estimates for $6.4 billion. If not for the strengthening dollar, which diminishes the value of sales in other currencies, Amazon said its revenue would risen 24 percent.

Sales of items like books, CDs and DVDs climbed 9 percent to $3.64 billion, and sales of electronics and other merchandise rose 31 percent to $2.89 billion.

The recession's effects may have shown up in one key figure — Amazon's gross profit margin. It declined to 20.1 percent, from 20.6 percent in the fourth quarter of 2007.

In a conference call with reporters, Chief Financial Officer Tom Szkutak said the fall could be attributed to price cuts. Retailers were especially hungry for consumer dollars during the holiday quarter.

Amazon also said it made 45,000 additional book titles available for its wireless electronic reading device, the Kindle, for a current total of 230,000. The company has not released sales figures for the Kindle device, and is widely believed to be releasing a new version in early February.

For the full year, Amazon earned $645 million, or $1.49 per share, on $19.2 billion in revenue. The company earned $476 million, or $1.12 per share, on revenue of $14.8 billion during 2007.

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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