Nvidia (NVDA) Reports Earnings on Thursday: 5 Important Things to Watch - TheStreet

Nvidia's (NVDA) - Get Report shares took quite a tumble during last month's tech selloff, and remain about 32% below an Oct. 1 high of $292.06.

In the wake of this selloff, Nvidia might not have to deliver particularly great numbers in its October quarter (fiscal third quarter) report to get a thumbs-up from investors. On average, analysts polled by FactSet expect revenue of $3.24 billion (up 23% annually), GAAP EPS of $1.71 and non-GAAP EPS of $1.93.

TheStreet will be live blogging Nvidia's earnings after the close on Nov. 15. Please check our home page then for more details.

Nvidia also provides quarterly sales guidance in its earnings reports. The January quarter revenue consensus currently stands at $3.4 billion (up 17%).

Nvidia's report is due out after the close on Thursday, followed by an earnings call at 5:30 p.m. ET. Here are some things for investors to watch in Nvidia's report:

1. Early Turing Gaming GPU Demand

Nvidia unveiled the first gaming GPUs based on its Turing architecture in late August; the two most powerful GPUs in the lineup, the RTX 2080 Ti and RTX 2080, began shipping in September, while the less powerful RTX 2070 began shipping in October. The company has also rolled out Turing parts for its Quadro workstation GPU line, as well as Turing server GPUs meant to handle AI inference (the running of trained AI algorithms against real-world data and content).

Reviews for the first Turing gaming GPUs have generally been pretty good, but have also noted that games able to take advantage of specialized processing cores meant to handle real-time ray tracing and AI inference -- they're called RT cores and Tensor cores, respectively -- weren't available at launch time, and will be gradually arriving in the coming months. Meanwhile, RTX 2080 Ti and 2080 graphics cards, reported to be in short supply, have been selling at premiums to their MSRPs at major retailers such as Newegg and Amazon.

Nvidia's October quarter Gaming segment revenue -- it covers PC gaming GPUs and game console processors, and still accounts for over half of total revenue -- should provide some indication about early Turing gaming GPU demand. As should the company's January quarter sales guidance and commentary. The consensus is for October quarter Gaming revenue of $1.91 billion (up 22% annually), and for January quarter Gaming revenue of $2.01 billion (up 16%).

2. Inventories, CPU Shortages and Tariffs

Nvidia said in August that it's "projecting no contributions" going forward from sales of GPUs meant specifically for cryptocurrency miners. However, like rival AMD (AMD) - Get Report , some of Nvidia's gaming GPUs also wound up being used by crypto miners. And with AMD having stated in October that a drop-off in crypto-related GPU demand has led to elevated graphics card inventories at channel partners, it's possible that Nvidia is seeing a similar dynamic play out -- albeit likely on a smaller scale relative to the size of its PC GPU business, given its stronger exposure to gamers -- for its older Pascal-architecture GPUs.

Intel's (INTC) - Get Report recent PC CPU shortages are also a potential near-term headwind; Micron (MU) - Get Report and other PC chip and component suppliers have indicated that they're affecting near-term sales a bit. Tariffs on Chinese graphics card imports could also have some impact.

3. Datacenter Segment Sales

The October quarter was likely another strong one for Nvidia's Datacenter segment: The consensus is for Datacenter revenue to be up 64% to $820 million, after having grown 83% to $720 million in the July quarter.

Giant investments by cloud giants in AI training and (to a lesser extent) inference systems containing Nvidia server GPUs have helped out. Enterprises, meanwhile, have been both upping their AI training investments off a relatively small base and continuing to spend more on GPU-powered high-performance computing (HPC) systems in fields such as chemistry, fluid dynamics and medical research. Nvidia announced earlier this week that 127 supercomputers on the latest Top500 list feature its GPUs, up from 86 a year ago.

The recent launch of Nvidia's DGX-2 system -- it packs 16 of the company's powerful Tesla V100 GPUs -- could provide a boost to enterprise sales. And cloud sales could get a fresh lift from the launch of Nvidia's Turing-based Tesla T4 GPU, which is promised to deliver much better inference performance than older Pascal-based GPUs.

4. Automotive Growth and Commentary

Nvidia's Automotive segment revenue, which for now depends heavily on sales of Tegra processors used by infotainment systems, is expected to rise 12% to $162 million. CEO Jensen Huang has suggested Nvidia is paring back its infotainment investments as it pours resources into its autonomous driving efforts, but for now the infotainment business seems to be holding up reasonably well.

Any commentary provided about the expected revenue ramp for Nvidia's Drive computing boards, which are used both by existing ADAS systems and autonomous driving systems in development, is worth closely watching. The list of firms whom Nvidia has announced Drive-related partnerships with includes Audi, Mercedes-Benz, Toyota, Volvo and Baidu.

5. Spending Growth

Thanks in large part to heavy R&D spending, Nvidia's operating expenses grew 33% on a GAAP basis in the July quarter, and 30% on a non-GAAP basis.

For the October quarter, Nvidia has forecast its GAAP opex will be up 29% to $870 million, and that its non-GAAP opex, which excludes stock compensation and certain other expenses, will be up 28% to $730 million.

This column originally appeared on Real Money, our premium site for active traders. Click here to get more great columns like this.