Google profit misses analysts' target

Google's earnings and revenue growth decelerated more than analysts anticipated during the fourth quarter, magnifying worries that the internet search leader's moneymaking machine is bogging down as the US economy teeters on the brink of recession, an Associated Press report said.

The Associated Press report said quarterly results spooked already jittery investors, causing Google's slumping stock price to plunge another 7%.

Google earned $1.21 billion, or $3.79 per share, during the final three months of 2007. That's up 17% from net income of $1.03 billion, or $3.29 per share, in the same period a year earlier.

It's the first time Google's profit Google's quarterly profit has climbed by less than 25% since the Mountain View-based company went public nearly 3 1/2 years ago, the Associated Press report said.

If not for stock awards given to its employees, Google said it would have made $4.43 per share, a penny below the average estimate among analysts polled by Thomson Financial, according to the report.

CEO Eric Schmidt rebuffed the notion that the feeble US economy undercut Google's growth, it added.

Google executives said a revision in the company's formula for showing advertising links crimped the fourth-quarter results by reducing the number of revenue-generating clicks, the report further said.