NVDA – The Aftermath

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Image Source: Pixabay

When it came to writing about Nvidia (NVDA) yet again, part of a quote from “Caddyshack” came to mind: “I didn’t want to do it. I felt I owed it to them”. But after a period of intense pre-earnings discussion and a subsequently astounding relief rally, a wrap-up discussion seemed appropriate. 

Over a week ago we alerted readers that NVDA earnings would be a market-moving event.  That part is evident from today’s rally.  We were concerned that it would take a huge beat and raise for the stock not to fall, and NVDA delivered. It is indeed a reason to celebrate, as this morning’s 15% rally shows.

In case you were wondering why NVDA is inextricably linked to artificial intelligence, listening to yesterday’s earnings call should have more than satisfied your curiosity.I counted 67 uses of the term “AI” before the first question was asked. After the year-ago conference call, I found it telling that they used the term 37 times before the first question. That’s a bit less than doubling in a year. On the other hand, the stock is up nearly fourfold since then!

Even though I warned that there was more risk to the downside – and I still believe that a shortfall would have resulted in an even bigger move than today’s upswing – it wasn’t something I was hoping for. I don’t want to be perceived as rooting against our customers, but I think that every investor does himself a huge disservice if he fails to be aware of risks in both directions.

Always keep this fact in mind: no one should ever want their insurance to pay off! We all need to be wary of fire or floods that could damage our homes, illnesses that could damage our well-being or the risk of accidents that could damage our cars, and we all carry insurance to mitigate the financial effects of those risks. But are any of us ever angry that we didn’t put in a major insurance claim in a given year? Of course not. The same mentality should apply when one hedges major market risks.

It’s important to keep in mind that I believe that my initial piece and a subsequent TV visit raised a set of risks that were not being considered at that time. By yesterday morning, this was a mainstream topic of market conversation. As a result, the stock price reflected the risk. 

Bear in mind that the stock had fallen 10% from just after the start of trading on Friday until about 3 pm yesterday. Paradoxically, that balanced the risks ahead of the earnings report. While the current NVDA price is well above last week’s prevailing levels, the intervening dip reflected a more widespread concern about the potential for a market-moving result. That the Cboe Volatility Index had been trading in the 15-16 level ahead of the earnings report also reflected perceptions about the broader risks inherent in an NVDA shortfall.

So, what’s next for NVDA specifically and the AI trade in general? It’s a tricky call because this is now perhaps the ultimate FOMO – maybe even “weaponized FOMO”. It’s awfully tempting to jump onto the bandwagon, and a treacherous trend to fight.

An institutional manager who is underweight NVDA, and peers like SMCI and AMD, is suffering. Many will be incentivized to chase. Remember, FOMO reflects career risk for institutional investors. None of them want to risk underperforming their benchmark or their peers.  As for individuals, however, FOMO is more about greed than actual fear. No one wants to miss a rally, but that’s frustrating, not a career-threatening. The decision for all investors needs to be about balancing risk and reward, and chasing a stock that is up 15% in a day does involve a fair amount of risk. It’s up to each investor to know their own tolerances.

One way that both sets of investors are dealing with the situation is to buy calls rather than the stock itself (though of course, PLENTY are buying the shares!) The calls aren’t cheap, but they have limited downside and leveraged upside. This demand is reflected in an unusual skew in NVDA options. Normally we see above-market options trading at lower implied volatilities than below-market options. That is because there are typically natural sellers of calls (covered call writers) and demand for protection from hedgers. In the case of NVDA, we see the opposite – above-market options are generally much more expensive. That means there is greater demand than usual for speculative calls.   

NVDA Skew for Options Expiring March 15th, 2024, Today (bright yellow) vs. Yesterday (fainter yellow)

(Click on image to enlarge)

NVDA Skew for Options Expiring March 15th, 2024, Today (bright yellow) vs. Yesterday (fainter yellow)

Source: Interactive Brokers

At least so far, today’s advance is truly a tech-driven rally. A 1.75% rally in SPX would normally be accompanied by advancing stocks far outpacing decliners. Right now it’s about 2:1. And the Russell 2000 (RTY), which has recently been about 2X as volatile as SPX (up and down) is a big laggard this morning. It’s NVDA’s market, and we’re all living in it.

More By This Author:

Options Market Expectations For Nvidia Earnings
What WMT And HD Earnings Told Us
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Disclosure: The analysis in this material is provided for information only and is not and should not be construed as an offer to sell or the solicitation of an offer to buy any security. To the ...

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