Autoweb.com says it'll beat Street in 1Q

Online car dealer Autoweb.com said stronger-than-expected sales and lower operating costs will result in an upside surprise in its first quarter.

After the bell Monday, Autoweb.com (Nasdaq: AWEB) said its expects to report sales of between $14 million to $15 million in the quarter, roughly 5 to 10 percent above most analysts' estimates.

Ahead of the announcement, Autoweb.com shares closed up 1 5/8, or 25 percent, to 8 3/16.

Company officials also said its first-quarter loss will be smaller than expected, mainly because the company was able to reduce staffing costs.

First Call consensus expects Autoweb.com to lose 44 cents a share in the quarter.

Last quarter, the Santa Clara, Calif. company topped Street estimates, posting a loss of $8.4 million, or 24 cents a share, on sales of $11.6 million.

Company officials said it now expects to post a first-quarter loss of around $9 million, roughly the same as it reported last quarter.

Separately, it announced a long-term strategic alliance with CarsDirect.com. The partnership includes a co-branded direct buying service on the Autoweb.com site, exclusive links to Autoweb.com from the CarsDirect.com site, and licensing of data, content and tools.

Autoweb.com shares hit an all-time high of 41 1/4 in April before skidding to a low of 5 1/2 in February.

Four of the five analysts tracking the stock maintain either a "buy" or "strong buy" recommendation.