Internet retailer Amazon.com more than doubled its second-quarter profit and beat Wall Street's expectations, a performance CEO Jeff Bezos credited in part to high gas prices that are sending shoppers online.

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Amazon.com continues to shrug off the negative effects of an economy seemingly headed for recession.

The Seattle-based Internet retailer more than doubled its second-quarter profit and beat Wall Street’s expectations.

In a conference call with analysts Wednesday, founder and Chief Executive Jeff Bezos suggested Amazon has an edge over other retailers because consumers faced with sticker shock at the gas pump are increasingly buying online.

“Even just driving 10 miles these days is a few dollars’ worth of gasoline. And consumers, we suspect, are beginning to take that into account,” Bezos said.

Amazon posted a profit of $158 million, or 37 cents, up from 78 million, or 19 cents, a year ago. Analysts had predicted a per-share profit of 26 cents.

Sales for the three-month period that ended June 30 shot up 41 percent to $4.06 billion.

Amazon released its results Wednesday after the close of regular trading. Confusion ensued as shares rose, fell, then rose again in after-hours trading to more than $76.50, up about $6 or nearly 9 percent.

Wall Street seemed unsure about what to make of a $53 million gain Amazon realized from the sale of its European DVD-rental assets. Excluding the sale, Amazon had a per-share-profit of 28 cents, said Dan Geiman, an analyst with McAdams Wright Ragen in Seattle.

“Their results were good, but maybe not as good as their report would lead you to believe,” said Geiman, who has a “hold” rating on Amazon stock.

Shares of Amazon have traded between $61.20 and $101.09 in the past year. The company has now met or exceeded Wall Street’s profit expectations for eight straight quarters.

Domenic LaCava, an analyst with Canaccord Adams in Boston, said he was encouraged by Amazon’s profit outlook for the rest of 2008, describing it as a bit better than he expected.

“Even if [that improvement] is small, it’s still a signal that Amazon is winning market share and doing well in a tough consumer environment,” said LaCava, who rates the stock a “buy.”

The company said it benefited from growth in its Amazon Prime program, which promises two-day shipping on all orders for a $79 annual fee.

“Amazon Prime membership costs less than a tank of gas — more and more customers are joining the program,” Bezos said in a statement.

He told analysts the company has no plans to do away with Amazon Prime or other free-shipping offers, despite higher gas prices.

“The burden is upon us to make sure we can do that in a way that is economical to us,” he said.

For the full year, Amazon predicted sales of between $19.35 billion and $20.1 billion, which would put it up as much as 35 percent from 2007 and slightly better than it had predicted in April.

The company narrowed its forecast for 2008 operating income to between $745 million and $920 million. Geiman noted that the midpoint of that range — $832.5 million — is virtually in line with Amazon’s previous prediction.

Amazon has been positioning itself for a new future in digital delivery of music, movies, TV shows and books, although it gave few, if any, details about the potential payoff.

Recent investments include the Kindle electronic reading device, online music store Amazon MP3 and online audiobook seller Audible, which Amazon bought for $300 million.

Last week, the company introduced a limited test version of Amazon Video on Demand, an online store of TV shows and movies that can be watched immediately after orders are placed.

Also, the company said it continues to see growth in Amazon Web Services, which lets customers rent computing capacity over the Internet on an as-needed basis. Amazon said more than 30,000 additional customers signed up during the quarter, bringing the total to more than 400,000.

Amazon benefited from a weak U.S. dollar, which increased the value of sales made in stronger foreign currencies. Without that favorable effect, sales climbed 35 percent from a year ago, rather than 41 percent.

The company said sales from its U.S. and Canadian sites rose by more than a third to $2.17 billion, while its international segment, representing British, German, Japanese, French and Chinese sites, had sales of $1.89 billion, a 47 percent increase.

Amy Martinez: 206-464-2923 or amartinez@seattletimes.com