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Buy Nvidia, the market's hottest stock, before earnings due to gaming strength: Jefferies

  • Jefferies predicts Nvidia will report strong gaming segment sales due to Nintendo Switch demand.
  • Its stock is up nearly 190 percent in the past 12 months through Tuesday compared with the S&P 500's 13 percent return.
  • That performance ranks No. 1 in the entire S&P 500, according to FactSet.

Nvidia is the best-performing stock over the past year. But even after the big run, one Wall Street analyst predicts the chipmaker will beat expectations later this week.

For the July quarter earnings "we ... see upside to estimates in gaming and data center. We think core PC Gaming will benefit from increased demand for Nintendo's Switch and mining GPUs for cryptocurrency," Jefferies semiconductor analyst Mark Lipacis wrote in a note to clients Wednesday.

Lipacis reiterated his buy rating and his $180 price target for Nvidia, representing 6 percent upside to Tuesday's close.

He cited AMD's and Intel's strong recent product pricing trends as positive indicators for Nvidia.

"Both INTC and AMD reported ASP [average selling price] related upside in client computing during 2Q17, we believe NVDA will report similar ASP benefits in its July quarter results," Lipacis wrote.

As a result, the analyst estimates Nvidia will report earnings per share of 72 cents for the July quarter versus the Wall Street consensus of 70 cents.

Lipacis is also optimistic about the company's future product pipeline.

"We expect NVDA to begin shipping its next-gen Volta GPU architecture optimized for neural network training [artificial intelligence] in 3Q17," he wrote. "Our field work indicates that the tensor cores (matrix multiplication) NVDA has put into Volta extends NVDA's lead over competitive merchant neural networking processors."

Nvidia's stock is up nearly 190 percent in the past 12 months through Tuesday compared with the S&P 500's 13 percent return. That performance ranks No. 1 in the entire S&P 500, according to FactSet.

The company will report fiscal second-quarter results on Thursday, according to its website.