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Nvidia riding high on explosive growth in AI

Why Nvidia's chips are so important for AI
Why Nvidia's chips are so important for AI 04:01

Chipmaker Nvidia has rocketed into the constellation of Big Tech's brightest stars while riding the artificial intelligence wave that's fueling red-hot demand for its technology.

The latest evidence of Nvidia's ascendance emerged with the release of the company's quarterly earnings report Wednesday. The results covering the May-July period exceeded Nvidia's projections for astronomical sales growth propelled by the company's specialized chips — key components that help power different forms of artificial intelligence such as Open AI's popular ChatGPT and Google's Bard chatbots.

"The entire tech sector and overall market was waiting for Nvidia with this being the purest and best barometer for AI demand," Wedbush analysts said in a report. "The results/guidance were a "drop the mic" moment in our opinion that will have a ripple impact for the tech space for the rest of the year."

Nvidia's revenue for its second fiscal quarter doubled from the same period last year to $13.51 billion, culminating in a profit of $6.2 billion, or $2.48 per share, more than nine times what the company made a year ago. Both figures were well above the projections from analysts polled by FactSet Research.

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Nvidia shares rose 33 points in after-hours trading, or nearly 7%, to $504 a share. The company's stock is up 222% so far this year. 

Major beneficiaries

And the momentum is still building. The Santa Clara, California, company predicted its revenue for its August-October quarter will total $16 billion, nearly tripling its sales from the same time last year. Analysts had been anticipating $12.6 billion in revenue for the period, according to FactSet.

"We view these results and guidance as a historical moment for the tech sector speaking the tidal wave of AI spending now on the horizon over the coming years," said Wedbush analysts. "Software, digital media, Big Tech, and of course chips will be the major beneficiaries of this spending with Microsoft in our opinion along with Nvidia the best pure play AI names."

Nvidia's stock price surged 8% in extended trading after the numbers came out. The shares already have more than tripled so far this year, a run-up that has boosted Nvidia's market value to $1.2 trillion — a threshold that thrust the company into the tech industry's elite. If the stock rises similarly during Thursday's regular trading session, it will mark yet another record high for Nvidia's shares and boost the company's market value by another $90 billion or so.

Other stalwarts that are currently or have been recently valued at $1 trillion or above are Apple, Microsoft, Amazon and Google's corporate parent Alphabet.

Now, those tech giants as well as a long line of other firms are snapping up Nvidia chips as the company wades deeper into AI — a movement that's enabling cars to drive themselves, and automating the creation of stories, art and music.

Nvidia has carved out an early lead in the hardware and software needed in the AI-focused shift, partly because its co-founder and CEO Jensen Huang began to nudge the company into what was then seen as a still half-baked technology more than a decade ago. While others were still debating the merits of AI, Huang was already looking at ways that Nvidia chipsets known as graphics processing units might be tweaked for AI-related applications to expand beyond their early inroads in video gaming.

By 2018, Huang was convinced that AI would trigger a tectonic shift in technology similar to Apple's 2007 introduction of the iPhone igniting a mobile computing revolution. That conclusion led Huang into what resulted in what he calls a "bet the company moment." At the time Huang doubled down on AI, Nvidia's market value stood at about $120 billion.

"I think it's safe to say it was worth it to bet the company" on AI, Huang, 60, said during a presentation earlier this month.

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Huang's foresight gave Nvidia a head start in designing software to complement its chips tailored for AI applications, creating "a moat" that other major chipmakers such as Intel and AMD are having trouble getting around during a period of intense demand that is expected to continue into next year, said Bernstein analyst Stacy Rasgon. Nvidia is increasingly pitching a Lego-like combination of GPUs, memory chips and more conventional processing chips enclosed in a big package. In a demonstration earlier this month, Huang showed one such room-sized structure, joking about how it might look if delivered to a doorstep by Amazon.

"Everybody else is trying to catch them now that they see the opportunity is there." Rasgon said.

Huang's vision has prompted Wedbush Securities analyst Dan Ives to hail him as "the Godfather of AI," and established him as one of the world's wealthiest people with an estimated fortune of $42 billion.

While Ives still sees plenty of upside in Nvidia's future growth and stock price, other market observers believe investors are getting carried away.

"This level of hype is dangerous as it could lead investors to assume that these stocks are a silver bullet to build long-term wealth — and they are not, at least not on their own," warned Nigel Green, CEO of deVere Group.

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