|Nvidia upgraded as cybercurrency miners go bonkers for its chips |
By Barbara Kollmeyer
Published: June 20, 2017 10:28 a.m. ET
Graphics chip maker is limiting supply to avoid an inventory correction when demand surge fade
Nvidia Corp. has been running out of its graphics processing units, and it seems some enthusiastic cybercurrency miners are the ones gobbling them up.
And while it is hard to know exactly where that demand goes, it was still enough to prompt a ratings upgrade from Pacific Crest analyst Michael McConnell and the team on Tuesday, as they lifted Nvidia NVDA, -0.69% to sector weight, after being at underweight for the past 2 1/2 months.
The stock climbed as much as 2.8% in morning trade, before paring some gains.
Nvidia designs graphics processing units (GPUs), which were mostly used for videogames until it was discovered they could be used for hard-core computing jobs. Crypto miners in China and Eastern Europe have been so hot on the graphics chips that they’ve been snapping them up, according to the Pac Crest crew. Read more about cryptocurrencies and how they are mined.
“While sustainability is in question, strong GPU demand from the cryptocurrency mining market has rapidly depleted excess channel inventory carried into [the fiscal second quarter],” said McConnell and his team in a note to clients.
Nvidia, a high tech flier
This demand alleviated McConnell’s worries about a slowdown in gaming-sector growth for the rest of 2018. Nvidia, one of the hottest tech stocks in the past few months, is up 50% year-to-date and has more than tripled on the past 12 months.
In comparison, the PHLX Semiconductor Index SOX, +0.44% has run up 20% year to date, and 56% over the past 12 months. The S&P 500 index SPX, +0.01% has tacked on 9.3% so far this year and 17% the past 12 months.
Chip maker Advanced Micro Devices Inc. AMD, +4.35% which Pacific Crest is maintaining at sector weight, has also seen demand for its GPUs from miners of digital currencies. McConnell said they are raising second-quarter estimates for that company, but believe shares, up 145% over 12 months, and 10% year-to-date, are fairly valued.
Part of the reason for the lack of supply of Nvidia’s GPUs is that the company appears to be concerned it will fall into the same trap it did in 2013, when it ramped up production to meet a surge in demand that quickly dissipated, leading to an inventory correction. As a result, McConnell said Nvidia has been “limiting shipments” to the cryptocurrency market.
On the other hand, AMD has been more “opportunistic” in terms of trying to fulfill demand, McConnell said.
An increase in cybermining wouldn’t be a stretch to believe, given a strong run seen for those digital currencies, of which bitcoin BTCUSD, -1.57% and ethereum are most widely known. Bitcoin soared to $3,000 last week, but has since d ropped back to $2,690.12.