– Google Inc. has gotten into the habit of missing analysts' earnings targets, frustrating investors who believe the online search leader would be more profitable if it wasn't pouring money into far-flung projects such as Internet-connected eyewear and driverless cars.

The latest letdown came Thursday with the release of Google's fourth-quarter financial results. The earnings were well below analysts' predictions, marking the fifth consecutive quarter that Google hasn't cleared a key hurdle for publicly held companies.

But investors' disappointment with the performance seemed to dissipate during a pep talk by Google Chief Financial Officer Patrick Pichette. He assured investors that Google intends to spend in a "prudent manner" and left open the possibility that the company might funnel some of its $64 billion in cash back to shareholders.

Those remarks, made during conference call to discuss the results, reversed an initial sell-off in Google's stock. After shedding 2 percent in extended trading, the shares rebounded to post a 2 percent gain of $10.47 to $523.70.

Google earned $4.8 billion, or $6.91 per share, a 41 percent increase from the same period in 2013. Google's revenue for the period covering the holiday shopping season rose 15 percent to $18.1 billion.

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