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Jefferies says cryptocurrency mining market is strong for Nvidia and AMD

  • Jefferies predicts cryptocurrency mining will be a viable growth market longer term for Nvidia and AMD.
  • Nvidia's stock is up nearly 180 percent in the past 12 months through midday Monday compared with the S&P 500's 17 percent gain. That performance ranks No. 1 in the entire S&P 500, according to FactSet.
  • AMD shares are up 112 percent in the same time period, a return that ranks No. 2 in the benchmark index.
Jen-Hsun Huang, president and chief executive officer of Nvidia Corp., holds the Nvidia Xavier high-end computing module as he speaks during a keynote presentation at the 2017 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, Jan. 4, 2017.
David Paul Morris | Bloomberg | Getty Images
Jen-Hsun Huang, president and chief executive officer of Nvidia Corp., holds the Nvidia Xavier high-end computing module as he speaks during a keynote presentation at the 2017 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, Jan. 4, 2017.

Nvidia and AMD are the best-performing stocks over the past year. One Wall Street firm predicts the strong returns will likely continue.

Jefferies is bullish that cryptocurrency mining will boost demand for the chipmakers' products even after some on Wall Street have expressed concerns over the companies' digital currency exposure.

"We think that the risk of a 'crypto-driven' inventory correction driving material downside is low in the near term," Jefferies semiconductor analyst Mark Lipacis wrote in a note to clients Monday, adding demand for graphics processors used in cryptocurrency mining were likely to "remain healthy in 3Q."

Nvidia's stock is up nearly 180 percent in the past 12 months through midday Monday compared with the S&P 500's 17 percent gain. That performance ranks No. 1 in the entire S&P 500, according to FactSet. AMD shares are up 112 percent in the same time period, the No. 2 gain in the benchmark index.

Lipacis reiterated his buy ratings for both chipmakers. He also reaffirmed his $180 and $19 price targets for Nvidia and AMD, respectively.

Cryptocurrency miners use graphics cards from AMD and Nvidia to "mine" new coins, which can then be sold or held for future appreciation.

The analyst cited the price strength of bitcoin since July. The digital currency rose nearly 120 percent from its low in mid-July and is up almost 340 percent year to date through midday Monday, according to data from industry website CoinDesk.

Lipacis noted even if digital currency prices drop in the future, the effect on the chipmakers will be more muted than it was in previous cycles.

"Both AMD and NVDA have introduced 'cryptospecific GPU SKUs' that have a low risk of competing with core gaming GPUs in secondary markets," he wrote. "So should cryptocurrency prices dramatically decline again, we think that AMD's risk of competing with its own GPUs resold by miners in secondary markets is lower than the 2013-15 cycle."

The analyst also predicts cryptocurrency mining demand will be a viable growth market longer term for Nvidia and AMD:

"We actually believe that the technology they are based on, called Blockchain, which supports secure accounting of distributed ledgers, has applications in financial services beyond cryptocurrencies. We expect demand for Blockchain GPUs (including for cryptocurrencies) to continue to grow and become an important driver for GPU growth, even if with some degree of volatility."

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