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[NEW YORK] A surge in Amazon.com shares Thursday morning in advance of the online retailer's earnings report has propelled founder Jeff Bezos past Bill Gates as the world's richest person.
Shares of the online retailer rose 1.3 per cent to US$1,065.92 at 10.10am in New York, giving Mr Bezos a net worth of US$90.9 billion, versus US$90.7 billion for Mr Gates.
If that holds through the 4pm close, Mr Bezos, 53, will leapfrog Mr Gates, the Microsoft co-founder, on the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.
Mr Gates, 61, has held the top spot since May 2013.
Investors and analysts, in addition to watching Amazon's progress in taking market share in categories such as apparel and groceries, will be scrutinising how many new subscriptions the retailer sold for its US$99-a-year Amazon Prime service, which offers delivery discounts and video and music streaming.
Prime shoppers spend more than customers who don't have a membership.
"Amazon Prime is why so much physical retail is going away," said Michael Pachter, a Wedbush Securities analyst who has a buy rating on the stock and a price target of US$1,250.
"Anyone who joins Prime shops in retail stores 10 per cent less, and that number will keep accelerating as Amazon adds more inventory."
Investors also monitor Amazon's cloud-computing division, Amazon Web Services, a fast-growing and profitable business that accounts for about 10 per cent of revenue.
Amazon leads the cloud-computing industry, but faces increasing competition from Microsoft and Google parent Alphabet.
Amazon is expected to post quarterly revenue of US$37.2 billion, a 22 per cent jump from a year earlier, according to the average estimate of 34 analysts surveyed by Bloomberg, and earnings per share of US$1.42.
Meanwhile, Facebook's intraday gains have helped pull co-founder Mark Zuckerberg, 33, within US$200 million of Berkshire Hathaway.
Chairman Warren Buffett, 86, who's currently ranked fourth on the Bloomberg index with a net worth of US$74.5 billion.
Mr Bezos owns about 17 per cent of Seattle-based Amazon, which has surged 40 per cent this year through Wednesday, helping to add US$24.5 billion to his net worth.
He started 2017 as the world's fourth-wealthiest person and has since leapfrogged Mr Buffett and Inditex SA founder Amancio Ortega, 81, who ranks third with US$82.7 billion.