Invidious Doubts on NVIDIA

You’d think a stock that’s soared from $25 to $175 in two years would give its owners few reasons for worry – if you were an alien that hadn’t yet met its first human.

The rest of us tend to believe that extraordinary gains never last, that what goes up tends to come down, and so on. Those worries may not be germane to a company setting a new standard in computing architecture. But they’re sill haunting NVIDIA (NSDQ: NVDA), whose rapid rise has attracted lots of hangers-on without strong convictions.

In the last 10 days the stock got hit by a report that Tesla (NSDQ: TSLA) has abandoned NVIDIA’s chips in favor of Intel’s (NSDQ: INTC) for its on-board entertainment systems, and by a (quickly denied) rumor that Tesla would also be working on shifting its auto-pilot driving system to AMD (NSDQ: AMD).

It didn’t matter much that tiny and unprofitable Tesla accounts for an irrelevant proportion of NVIDIA’s sales. When a momentum stock builds up too much momentum almost any excuse to sell will do.

Meanwhile, in a far more important development, NVIDIA used its conference in Beijing to announce supply and development deals with Chinese Internet giants Alibaba (NYSE: BABA), Tencent (OTC: TCEHY) and Baidu (NSDQ: BIDU). Those companies will be using NVIDIA chips in their data centers and cloud service offerings, as well as applications using artificial intelligence.

NVIDIA’s expanding market lead over rival AMD is based in no small part on its CUDA (Compute Unified Device Architecture) compiler software; the large CUDA code library built up over the last decade has helped make NVIDIA’s chips the go-to choice for developers of artificial intelligence applications.

An Evercore ISI analyst who sat in on NVIDIA’s investor meeting earlier this month cited the CUDA edge in raising his price target on the stock from $180 to $250. That note pushed the share price to all-time highs, and it remains in striking range of those peaks despite all the bearish Tesla chatter.

Tesla may or may not be around in three years’ time. NVIDIA has a shot at supplanting Intel as the most valuable chip developer by then. Continue buying NVDA on pullbacks below $170.


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