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Nvidia Reports Earnings Wednesday. Here’s Why Cryptocurrencies Matter.


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Chip maker Nvidia reports earning after the closing bell Wednesday.


Courtesy of Nvidia

Tucked away in the numbers that

Nvidia

will post Wednesday is revenue from cryptocurrency mining chips. Investors should keep an eye on the total.

Why is simple: The peaks and valleys of crypto prices make it tough to peg demand for the chips, which the miners who handle the transactions need. And Nvidia (ticker: NVDA) earnings has gotten burned before when crypto prices tanked.

This year, though, Nvidia has done two things to protect itself: Maybe most important, it changed the design of its videogame chips that crypto miners co-opted for their business. And the company started making a version just for miners.

The new chips are what Nvidia tracks as crypto revenue because it can’t accurately track how many videogame chips are being used for mining.

The company’s finance chief, Colette Kress, has forecast $400 million in crypto chip sales for the second quarter—more than double first-quarter revenue of $155 million. The consensus revenue estimate for the segment that includes mining chips is $537.5 million, up from $327 million sequentially in the first quarter.

Just like the results for any other company, investors want the actual numbers to at least match—and better yet beat—Kress’ estimates.

BMO Capital Markets analyst Ambrish Srivastava has put forward several estimates on the true size of Nvidia’s mining business—the new chips added to the videogame chips.

For the second quarter, Srivastava predicts $450 million in crypto revenue, which isn’t far off the company’s forecast; his estimate for the first quarter was $650 million, which was well above the $155 million Nvidia reported for just its mining chips.

Investors should hope that Nvidia—and Srivastava—are close with their numbers so they can have a better idea of just how much exposure the company has to those sometimes-volatile crypto prices. A slump in crypto prices a few years ago translated to a drop in Nvidia’s revenue by nearly a third for four straight quarters.

The rest of the quarter is fairly typical stuff. Overall, the consensus forecast is for adjusted earnings of $1.01 a share, on revenue of $6.3 billion.

Investors also should pay attention to the data center segment. Chief executive Jensen Huang has talked up the demand around data-center graphics processors, which are often used for artificial intelligence and machine-learning tasks. Wall Street expects data center revenue to grow roughly 30% to $2.3 billion.

The company’s core videogame chip business is expected to grow 80% to $3 billion. It’s worth looking for commentary from executives about the ongoing global chip shortage. The expected increase in supply hasn’t quite materialized, according to Srivastava.

Shares of Nvidia slumped 2.5% during Tuesday’s regular session to $194.58, but have gained 48% this year. The benchmark PHLX Semiconductor index gained 16% in 2021.

Write to Max A. Cherney at max.cherney@barrons.com