So far, shareholders of chipmakers Intel (NASDAQ:INTC) and NVIDIA (NASDAQ: NVDA) have been experiencing very different 2017s. NVIDIA's successful forays into cutting-edge markets such as the Internet of Things (IoT), artificial intelligence (AI), and cloud-based data centers, have pushed its stock price up 68% this year.
Owners of Intel stock haven't enjoyed 2017 as much; its stock is up just 2.5% year to date, underperforming the broader market. Yet Intel during that time has also put together back-to-back record-breaking quarters as it transforms itself into a data-center-first chip developer, and it, too, is entering the IoT, AI, and drone markets. So which is the better buy today: the high-flying NVIDIA or undervalued Intel?
The case for Intel
Though its stock performance has been mediocre, Intel continues to post strong earnings. Last quarter's $14.8 billion in revenue was yet another record and a 14% improvement year over year. Given its depressed valuation, the fact that it bought back some $1.3 billion in stock last quarter was also a positive.
So what's the problem? Intel continues to post outstanding results from its PC chips, which is concerning to some pundits because they can't shake the "PC market is dead" mantra. Intel's client computing group posted 12% revenue growth in the second quarter to $8.2 billion.
The data center unit's $4.4 billion in revenue last quarter was a 9% gain, wiping away the previous quarter's so-so results. With its $15.3 billion purchase of Mobileye now complete, Intel's sales in IoT -- a market expected to explode in the coming years -- will continue to pick up steam. The IoT division is already gaining traction; its revenues grew 26% last quarter to $720 million.
The oft-overlooked memory unit is also becoming a significant contributor to the top line, with its revenues skyrocketing 58% last quarter to $874 million. Last but not least, Intel shaved 21% off operating expenses in the second quarter, which boosted per-share earnings to $0.58, up from $0.27 a year ago. Toss in Intel's 2.9% dividend yield, and there's a compelling argument for both value and income investors to consider.
The case for NVIDIA
Intel isn't the only chip behemoth setting records. NVIDIA's fiscal 2018 Q2 was yet another home run, with revenue climbing a jaw-dropping 56% to $2.23 billion. Like Intel, NVIDIA is also managing its overhead well: Its operating expenses climbed just 3% last quarter.
NVIDIA's $0.92 in earnings obliterated last year's $0.41 a share. Excluding one-time items, NVIDIA's profits climbed 91% to $1.01 a share. Better still was how NVIDIA was able to post such outstanding results. Sure, gaming continues to thrive, with NVIDIA's GeForce graphics processing units (GPUs) quickly becoming the industry standard, and making inroads into the China market.
But it is NVIDIA's forays into data centers (a market where its revenues grew by more than 2.5 times year over year) virtual reality, artificial intelligence, and the fast-growing smart car market that have investors excited ... and rightfully so.
Make no mistake, NVIDIA is a pure growth stock; unlike Intel, its shares will offer little appeal to value investors. By virtually every metric, the stock is priced well above its industry averages. However, considering the company's outstanding top- and bottom-line growth, not to mention the expectations for both to continue, its relatively high valuation is warranted.
And the better buy is...
For an unabashed bull and longtime value investor like me, opting for Intel over NVIDIA should be a no-brainer. Thing is, it's not just NVIDIA's eye-popping quarterly results that impress -- it is how the chipmaker has achieved them, through the strong performances of its data center, AI, VR, and gaming units. It's this pattern of execution that makes me give NVIDIA the edge as the better stock to buy.