Here we go again. A little over a week ago, reversing a bearish call on Advanced Micro Devices, Inc. (NASDAQ:AMD) made just a couple of months earlier, Susquehanna analyst Christopher Rolland upgraded AMD stock back to “Neutral.”
The reason? Though several were cited, cryptocurrency mining matters appeared to be the highlight. Rolland noted rebounding Ethereum prices and rising costs of ASIC, application-specific integrated circuits. These are a more cost-effective means of mining for digital currency) made AMD’s graphics cards once again desirable for crypto miners.
The point was, and is, well taken. And, there are few people more sympathetic than I am to analysts, who have a very tough job.
On the flipside, this kind of flip-flopping has not only proven maddening, it’s proven detrimental to investors taking Rolland’s lead. All of us need to be thinking bigger-picture, and in this particular case we all also need to bear in mind that cryptocurrencies should be the last thing on our mind when it comes to weighing the merits of AMD stock.
What He Said
In his defense, the analyst in question cited multiple reasons to expect bigger and better from AMD stock going forward.
Also on Rolland’s list was the fact that Intel Corporation (NASDAQ:INTC) was postponing the launch of its 10-nanometer processors, giving Advanced Micro Devices a chance to win some market share in the meantime by leveraging its next-generation 7-namamoter CPU technologies.
Susquehanna even said that was the most important basis for the upgrade, though it and other observers have also lauded the strength of AMD’s EPYC server chips within the data center market.
And yet, in a crypto-crazed world, there’s little doubt investors were, as they have been, most responsive to Rolland’s thoughts about Ethereum’s strength, and the surprisingly high costs of the ASIC hardware that was specifically developed to cost-effectively mine the digital money.
Dominating the Narrative
There’s little doubt that the advent of cryptocurrencies has impacted AMD for the better, but not nearly as much as one might suspect. CEO Lisa Su even said as much following last month’s release of the company’s Q1 numbers, explaining that crypto only accounted for about a tenth of AMD’s business. Rival NVIDIA Corporation (NASDAQ:NVDA) has reported similar figures.
The disconnect is the amount of lip service and influence the very idea of crypto has had between many investors’ ears and even more analysts’ ears.
A closer look at Susquehanna’s downgrade of AMD stock in March makes clear that crypto-related matters were a key part of the concern then. A close-second tenet of March’s downgrade was concern that demand for artificial intelligence GPUs in data centers could soon be under pressure thanks to the rollout of another kind of AI ASIC (hyperscale) chip.
Apparently much can change in two months.
Bottom Line for AMD Stock
And that’s when reality strikes. A large swath of the analyst community has been more reactionary to headlines and less proactive to the market’s true underlying trends.
Granted, in some cases there is no ‘trend to identify. That’s true of cryptocurrencies anyway. It’s a market without actual fundamentals, run by speculators, with no barriers to entry and a lingering uncertainty about its future, and yet investors are trying their best to analyze it as they would the data center or gaming GPU market.
That’s a tall order indeed, and most have been left guessing, trying to respond to the headlines d’jour.
It’s not a practice that’s paid off though.
One only has to look at Susquehanna’s handling of Advanced Micro Devices to see this. Its downgrade of AMD stock back on March 26th came just a few days before a multi-week low. The stock gained about 25% between the downgrade and the upgrade back to a neutral stance just a few days ago. If anything, it should have been the other way around.
Moral of the story? All investors, professional and amateur alike, need to acknowledge the facts that (1) cryptocurrencies are the proverbial Wild West and can’t be handicapped, and (2) are the least important piece of the GPU industry right now.
They may spur some fun volatility, but we’ve got to stop letting that narrative lead us around by the nose. Again, it only accounts for about a tenth of AMD’s and Nvidia’s revenue.
As of this writing, James Brumley did not hold a position in any of the aforementioned securities. You can follow him on Twitter, at @jbrumley.