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Nvidia hopes high for stock rally as AI conference nears

Nvidia Corp.’s annual artificial intelligence conference is just days away and expectations are high for the semiconductor maker to deliver news that will sustain the blistering rally in its stock.

“Nvidia GTC,” the company’s graphics processing unit technology event, has quickly become a global AI conference for developers. It runs from March 18-21 in San Jose, California, with Chief Executive Officer Jensen Huang due to speak on the opening day. His comments may help Nvidia stock end a bout of volatility and resume its surge of more than 80% this year.

“It’s a huge catalyst because they’ll probably give more information, not only on industry penetration,” said Ted Mortonson, technology desk sector strategist at Robert W. Baird & Co. He compared the gathering to Apple Inc.’s yearly product launch.

Huang typically kicks off the event with an introduction of new products and an outline of his latest vision for where technology is headed. He’ll be under pressure to show off innovations that can replicate the wild success of the H100 chips for data centers and cement Nvidia’s leading position in this lucrative market.

This year’s appearance carries more weight after Nvidia’s 2024 gains alone added $1 trillion in market value for the company, catapulting it into a position as the top-performing stock in the S&P 500 Index. It’s been a bumpy ride for investors since the March 7 record close: on Tuesday, the shares snapped the worst two-day drop in five months, only to slide again on Wednesday. In early trading Thursday, shares were down more than 1%.

Some of that volatility is likely due to traders positioning ahead of next week’s event. Options data show that investors are paying an increasing premium for calls to profit from a rise in prices as the meeting approaches, especially for short-term contracts.

“It’s kind of like the Apple product introductions — everybody tries to get in front of it,” said Mortonson. “The million-dollar question is if you get selling on the news after Jensen’s keynote presentation.”

The event is so important to the shares that Bank of America analysts led by Vivek Arya have dubbed it the “AI Woodstock.” They have raised their Nvidia price target to $1,100 from $925 ahead of the conference.

Even after almost quadrupling in the past 12 months, Nvidia’s valuation suggests that there’s still room for further gains, according to BofA. The stock now trades at a lower multiple than when ChatGPT was launched in November 2022, Arya wrote.

And Wall Street is overwhelmingly bullish on Nvidia heading into the event. The company has 60 buy ratings, seven holds and zero sells among analysts tracked by Bloomberg.

“I feel very comfortable and confident where the level of demand is and upside to pretty much every estimate I’ve seen out there, probably including our own for the next 12 to 18 months,” TD Cowen analyst Matthew Ramsay said in an interview. He has an outperform rating and $900 price target on Nvidia.

While expectations are positive leading into the San Jose event, analysts and investors alike are aware that Nvidia stock is trading near technically overbought levels that could spark another pullback. Because of its size — it rocketed into the ranks of the three largest S&P 500 stocks this year — sharp moves in any direction could swing the entire market.

Nvidia “is a name that’s being held to very high expectations and so they have the pressure to continue to perform,” said Chris Carey, a portfolio manager at Carnegie Investment Council. “If they don’t, it’s going to be a surprise in the short term, and then an opportunity as well.”

Mixed in with concerns that hype around Nvidia’s leadership in AI is baked into the stock, there’s also the possibility for more positive momentum, depending on what comes out of an event that has historically given shares a boost.

“There’s so much speculation and so much over-exuberance on this name that it doesn’t really trade on valuation anymore,” said Mortonson. “It’s believe in the dream, so to speak, and the dream is happening.” Bloomberg

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