Shares of NVIDIA (NASDAQ:NVDA) rose 22.4% in the first half of 2018, according to data from S&P Global Market Intelligence. It was a bumpy ride, but the gains were ultimately based on solid business results.
The designer of computer graphics processors and other number-crunching chips rolled into 2018 on a full head of steam. Cryptocurrency miners made it hard for NVIDIA to keep store shelves stocked with graphics cards for video gamers and graphic design professionals. Meanwhile, cloud-computing data centers snapped up plenty of NVIDIA's Tesla, Volta, Titan X, and DGX products to power their server systems.
That momentum carried over into 2018 with one caveat: With cryptocurrency prices in free fall, NVIDIA started to see lower interest in mining rigs.
So the customer mix shifted over toward gaming enthusiasts and data center managers, but that didn't stop NVIDIA's momentum. The company crushed Wall Street's earnings and revenue estimates in two earnings reports, and introduced lots of promising new products in the biggest technology trade shows this spring. Investors were torn between flagging crypto-mining interest and proven results in other areas, producing a sawtooth-style stock chart. NVIDIA's positive year-to-date gains were never in doubt, though the magnitude of the returns varied sharply.
Rosenblatt Securities analyst Hans Mosesmann didn't mince words in his analysis of NVIDIA's first-quarter results.
"The crypto thing is no longer a relevant bear theme in our opinion," he wrote in a research report. "Get over it."
The larger growth engines going forward are found in the data center and in NVIDIA's budding automotive computing efforts. If NVIDIA can continue to execute as crisply as it has over the last three years, investors may be in for an exciting long-term thrill ride. That being said, share prices have soared 64% in 52 weeks, resulting in a stunning 1,160% three-year gain. NVIDIA's history is spotted with management mistakes and poor execution, and it's not easy to forgive and forget those missteps when the stock is riding this close to the sun. I'm quite comfortable on the sidelines.