This year's unlikely way to ride the ethereum, digital currency boom: Nvidia

Key Points
  • Nvidia shares have more than tripled in the last year, the best return of any stock in the S&P 500.
  • Mizuho Securities says shares will climb another 16 percent to $170 due to the cryptocurrency mining and PC gaming markets.
Nvidia to enter digital currency mining

Nvidia, the market's best-performing stock in the past year, received a big price forecast increase from Mizuho Securities Tuesday.

Analyst Vijay Rakesh told investors to buy the semiconductor company's shares, citing the strong business opportunities in the digital currency mining markets this year.

"We believe near-term strength in cryptocurrency mining with the run-up in Bitcoin is creating some GPU [graphics processing unit] shortages ahead of new title launches such as Destiny2, Call of DutyWW2 and Battlefront2," Rakesh wrote in the note to clients. "We believe while 1H17 gaming has been soft, conservative gaming estimates for 2H17 could see upside as near term cryptocurrency and mining trends are driving GPU" demand.

Nvidia will release graphic cards specifically designed for cryptocurrency mining through its partners, according to a CNBC report Tuesday.

The company's shares rallied 219 percent through Tuesday in the previous 12 months compared with the market's 19 percent return in that period. That performance ranks number one in the entire S&P 500, according to FactSet. The shares are up 37 percent this year versus the market's 8 percent performance.

This rally has coincided with a surge in digital currencies. For example, ethereum is up more than 3,500 percent in 2017.

The analyst reaffirmed his buy rating and raised his price target for Nvidia to $170 from $145, representing 16 percent upside from Tuesday's close.

Rakesh noted how pricing for Nvidia's gaming graphics cards are rising in recent weeks on retailer websites, which is a positive sign for demand. In addition, he cited the strong sales of the Nintendo Switch gaming console, which includes a Nvidia chip.

"While NVDA's valuations are steep, we believe current street estimates are conservative ... so that improving PCs, gaming trends, VR, and datacenter position for upside to estimates," he wrote. "NVDA is also well positioned for the up and coming machine learning, deep learning, and AI markets."

Multiple Wall Street firms have raised their forecasts for Nvidia shares this month including Citi Research and UBS.

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