Nvidia Poised for a Strong Earnings Release

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Nvidia ( NVDA) is expected to give a repeat performance of last year in this year's first-quarter earnings after the market closes on Thursday.

NVDA Chart NVDA data by YCharts
Nvidia designs, develops and markets 3D graphics processors, graphics processing units and related software.

52-Week Range: $11.15 to $15.22

Price To Book: 1.8

The consensus earnings estimate is currently 10 cents a share, the same as first quarter last year. The lowest analyst estimate this report is 8 cents per share, and the highest is 14 cents.

Analyst opinion is mixed. Most of the analysts surveyed don't believe a buy or a sell should be made at this point. As I write this, Nvidia has nine buy recommendations out of 32 analysts covering the company, 21 holds, and two recommend selling. In the last 12 months, the shares have modestly moved higher.

NVDA Gross Profit Margin TTM Chart NVDA Gross Profit Margin TTM data by YCharts
Intel ( INTC), AMD ( AMD), and Qualcomm ( QCOM) are Nvidia's largest competitors in the chip space. Only Nvidia and Intel have managed to expand gross margins in the last four years.

After Intel reported earnings, the shares climbed remarkably. I expect the same from Nvidia, regardless of the number the company puts up. An upside earnings surprise will be great, but don't expect it. The smart money will focus on guidance, so pay attention to the forward-looking numbers and the conference call, and don't get overly attached to the earnings per share number.

Intel is expected to release its latest new microarchitecture platform this summer. The question to ask is if the next advancement by Intel will be the key to Intel increasing market share at Nvidia's expense. Phones, tablets and other devices smaller than PCs are increasingly powered by graphics chips. As a result, Nvidia isn't far from reaching the billion-dollar, free-cash-flow club, and I think that's the next stop.

I like Qualcomm, and share declines are more of a buying opportunity than a cause for worry. Dollar for dollar, Qualcomm appears more attractive to me than AMD, the shares of which are expensive relative to the company's performance, especially so after the recent bounce off the bottom.

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