Why Intel Popped, AMD Plunged, and NVIDIA Sagged

The Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES: ^DJI  ) closed the week up 157 points, helped by generally good earnings results. This week in tech, chip giant Intel (NASDAQ: INTC  ) popped, chip challenger Advanced Micro Devices (NYSE: AMD  ) plunged, and NVIDIA  (NASDAQ: NVDA  ) sagged.

Intel's great quarter drives upside
Dow component Intel, which is the world's largest vendor of computer processors, reported a very strong quarter. The shares (and expectations) were already heightened following the company's upside pre-announcement, but the actual results again impressed. The company came in at $13.8 billion in sales and $0.55 per share in earnings -- beating consensus by $140 million and $0.02, respectively. 

Moreover, the company reported a very healthy guidance range for its third quarter of $13.9 billion to $14.9 billion ($14.4 billion at the midpoint), cruising past $14.02 billion analyst consensus. On top of that, Intel reported that gross margins for the rest of the year will be 63% -- up from the 61% previously guided. Finally, the company's new guidance calls for 5% top-line growth for the year, signaling a return to revenue growth after 2012 and 2013 proved disappointing on this front. 

Intel shares were up 7.7% for the week. 

Rival Advanced Micro Devices plunges
Unfortunately for Advanced Micro Devices, a rising tide -- in this case, improving PC sales -- does not always lift all boats. AMD's $1.44 billion in sales were in-line with consensus while its non-GAAP earnings per share of $0.02 missed consensus by a penny. However, a penny miss isn't what drove the nearly 17% drop in the Friday trading session. 

The company's guidance was weak, coming in at 2% sequntial revenue growth for the quarter against consensus of 9% revenue growth. While it's not likely that the investment community was expecting much from AMD's computing solutions group (i.e., PC and server processors) -- which were down 20% year over year in the most recent quarter -- the surprise was that GPU sales as well as game console chip sales weren't enough to drive a higher outlook.

Further, on the call it was made clear that the third quarter -- which is the current quarter -- is the peak quarter for game console chip sales. This, along with the fact that the fourth quarter has typically been flat to Q3 in terms of PC chip sales, is driving pessimism among investors that Q3 may be the peak quarter for the company this year, driving full-year estimates lower.

AMD shares were down 12.35% for the week. 

NVIDIA takes a sympathy hit
On the back of Advanced Micro Devices' relatively poor results, discrete graphics peer NVIDIA also slumped 3.2% for the week. AMD reported that its sales of discrete graphics processors into the desktop market were down as dedicated crypto-currency mining hardware softened the demand for graphics processors. 

It is important to keep in mind, though, that while AMD is very heavily levered to the consumer graphics market, NVIDIA has a very rich mix that includes professional and high-performance computing -- both markets that Intel's report signaled are doing well. Further, while the crypto-currency craze die-down may affect desktop GPUs, it's also worth noting that NVIDIA is very heavily exposed to gaming notebooks (which would not suffer from a drop in crypto-currency mining on graphics processors) while AMD's presence there is limited. 

The key takeaway? The desktop add-in board market may be weaker than expected for AMD, but given that NVIDIA's discrete GPU mix is generally more varied than AMD's, it's difficult to point to AMD's results as necessarily a harbinger of weakness for NVIDIA's. We'll know more, probably in early August, when NVIDIA reports its own results.

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