Why NVIDIA Earnings Will Matter to All Tech Stocks

Jon C. Ogg

NVIDIA Corp. (NASDAQ: NVDA) has become the king of technology stocks. Coming into earnings, the stock was up almost 100% so far in 2017 and is nearly 200% higher over the last year. With earnings due after Thursday’s closing bell, it’s going to be hard for any bull market investor and any technology investor to ignore how the stock reacts to its actual report.

For starters, NVIDIA is the top S&P 500 stock by performance going back to a year ago. It is also the sixth best performing S&P 500 stock so far in 2017. And NVIDIA’s valuations and momentum investor following have made it a leader in the future of technology. Having a leadership in graphics, artificial intelligence, machine learning, more processors and cryptocurrency mining, and getting to have a leadership in the brains of autonomous driving cars commands one hell of a premium.

By some measurements, NVIDIA has become the poster child for the trends that have driven the past year of this eight-and-a-half-year-old bull market. This stock is the one that every investor has wanted to own, and the share price has continued to rise above the consensus analyst price targets almost every week.

Thomson Reuters is calling for NVIDIA to report earnings of $0.94 per share (EPS) on revenues of $2.364 billion for its third quarter. Both figures would represent double-digit growth rates from a year ago. Consensus estimates for the fourth quarter are $0.98 EPS on revenue of $2.436 billion.

For fiscal year 2018, with a January year-end, NVIDIA’s consensus estimates are $3.63 EPS and $8.967 billion in revenues. Those numbers are expected to be $4.04 EPS and $10.125 billion in revenues if you jump forward a year.

Investors and analysts will have some serious decisions to make in the post-earnings period about how to value NVIDIA. Some investors have used the market peak and selling to exit ahead of earnings, and some short sellers may be re-emerging with ambitions that there is just no way for NVIDIA’s performance to be sustained.

The stock was down over $3.00 late on Wednesday, with a close of $209.16, and the stock was down under $205.00 in the mid-Thursday trading session. These prices compare with a 52-week and all-time high of $212.90.

It is undeniable that NVIDIA has been enjoying growth from just about all aspects of its business. Its expected revenues of almost $9 billion this year would be up almost 30% from the prior year’s $6.91 billion, and this would be almost 80% higher cumulatively than the $5.01 billion in revenues from two years ago.

The GeForce graphics have been strong, along with cryptocurrency-mining revenues, but NVIDIA’s future technology is where the real juice is. NVIDIA is set to clean up autonomous driving systems, artificial intelligence, machine learning, virtual reality and augmented reality. Some market dominance may not last forever, and we are seeing waves of consolidation in the chips, processors and every other aspect of high-performance computing power. Even rival Advanced Micro Devices Inc. (NASDAQ: AMD) has partnered up with rival Intel Corp. (NASDAQ: INTC) to target NVIDIA.

NVIDIA’s $125 billion market cap on Wednesday gave it a value of about 12 times expected revenues and a value of almost 52 times next year’s earnings. In investing terms, this is called “priced for perfection.” That doesn’t mean that NVIDIA shares cannot keep rising of course, as it has made mincemeat out of short sellers.

Compared with peers, NVIDIA is valued at about three times the forward price-to-earnings (P/E) ratio of Intel and is valued at about six times the valuation of AMD when using price-to-sales calculations.

As noted earlier, NVIDIA’s stock analysts have stepped all over each other trying to raise their price targets, and the stock keeps going even higher than that. NVIDIA’s consensus analyst target price was $174.44 on last look, but this is up from $165 a month ago and $145 just 90 days ago.

NVIDIA had a short interest of 14.7 million shares as of the October 13 settlement date. That sounds high on a nominal basis, but it is just 1.1 days to cover, and the short interest has fallen by 80% from last November.

As far as analysts raising their targets, here are the summaries of the changes seen in the most recent analyst calls:

  • Deutsche Bank raised its target to $190 from $145 on November 8.
  • Morgan Stanley raised its target to $210 from $168 on November 6.
  • RBC raised its target to $230 from $220 on October 27, after raising it from $205 on October 12.
  • Jefferies raised its target to $230 from $180 on October 23.
  • Mizuho raised its target to $220 from $180 on October 16.
  • Needham raised its target to $250 from $200 on October 13.

Even on October 2, 2017, Moody’s raised NVIDIA’s senior unsecured rating to A3 with an outlook “positive” view.  On September 20, S&P raised NVIDIA’s credit rating to BBB+ from BBB- and maintained its outlook “positive” as well.

If you really want to see how much the NVIDIA bandwagon has continued to look brighter and brighter, it was back on February 10 of this year that its shares fell marginally after earnings. Its stock was at $116.38 at that time, but its consensus price target was just $103.50. Here we go again.

NVIDIA’s weekly stock options are showing an implied volatility of well over 100% for all the call and put strike prices anywhere close to the current share price. A synthetic binary options trade $205 call and $202.50 put using the November 10 expiration costs about $15.00 ahead of earnings.

NVIDIA shares were last seen trading down 2.7% at $203.42, with a 52-week range of $66.76 to $212.90.