Goldman says Nvidia — the best chip stock last year — is headed for another big year

  • Goldman Sachs reiterated its buy rating for Nvidia shares, predicting the chipmaker will report earnings ahead of expectations.
  • The firm's analyst said the company will release gaming graphics cards with new chips later this year.
Nvidia founder, President and CEO Jen-Hsun Huang
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Nvidia founder, President and CEO Jen-Hsun Huang

Nvidia's gaming business will drive further gains for the company's shares this year, according to a top Wall Street firm.

Goldman Sachs reiterated its buy rating for Nvidia shares, predicting the chipmaker will report earnings ahead of expectations.

"Nvidia is one of the few stocks in our coverage universe exposed to multiple secular growth markets … With the emergence of eSports and the potential proliferation of VR/AR, we view Gaming as a meaningful and sustainable growth driver for the overall company," analyst Toshiya Hari wrote in a note to clients Friday. "In terms of single stock, our top picks in Semis and Semi Cap are Nvidia and Entegris."

Hari reaffirmed his $228 12-month price target for Nvidia shares, representing 7 percent upside to Thursday's close.

Nvidia is up 109 percent over the last 12 months, the best return of any chip stock in the S&P 500 and the third-best change of any stock in the benchmark.

The analyst predicts Nvidia will launch new Volta chip-based graphics cards in its second or third fiscal quarter later this year. As a result, he forecasts fiscal 2019 earnings per share of $6 for the chipmaker versus the $4.53 Wall Street consensus.

"Nvidia's first-mover advantage coupled with the sheer size of the market will lead to positive EPS revisions," he wrote.

In another move, Hari raised his rating for Xilinx shares to buy from neutral due to strength in the communications and cloud computing data center markets.