Testing the Nvidia Boom

Despite concerns about stubbornly high inflation, elevated interest rates and ballooning U.S. debt, the S&P 500 is trading at a record on Wednesday, having soared 27 percent over the past year.

Among the factors driving the rally, few are bigger than the boom in stocks tied to artificial intelligence — and the biggest of all of those is Nvidia.

Investors have high hopes for Nvidia’s earnings on Wednesday. Expect a torrent of trading when the chip maker reports results for its fiscal first quarter after market close. A year ago, Nvidia’s stock jumped more than 24 percent after it posted knockout earnings.

That report set the tone for the broader market, capturing investor enthusiasm for A.I. Since then, tech giants have said that they’ll spend a collective $200 billion on resources, including semiconductors and data centers, needed to power their A.I. businesses.

Such spending has been a growth catalyst for the chip makers at the heart of the A.I. boom, especially Nvidia. Its market valuation has climbed more than threefold in the past year, to nearly $2.4 trillion, making it the third-most-valuable listed U.S. company, after Microsoft and Apple.

Nvidia has set itself a high bar. Jensen Huang, the company’s C.E.O., told investors in February that “accelerated computing and generative A.I. have hit the tipping point.” He foresaw a global surge in demand for chips that power A.I. systems.

Analysts expect Nvidia to report quarterly revenues of about $25 billion later on Wednesday, much of which would come from customers upgrading their data centers with the company’s high-end chips.

Can Nvidia meet demand? The stock dipped on Tuesday after Amazon, the world’s biggest cloud-computing supplier and a huge Nvidia customer, told The Financial Times that it was waiting on orders for Nvidia’s new super-chip, Blackwell, which is designed to more speedily train large language models (the complex computing procedures that power A.I.).

Wall Street will be watching for any sign of a slowdown in orders until customers can get their hands on those chips.

Other factors to watch: Nvidia has been one of the big casualties of the Washington-Beijing trade war. The U.S. has barred the company from selling its highest-end semiconductors in China, one of its fastest-growing markets. In response, Chinese rivals, including Huawei, are rapidly advancing their chip-making capabilities.

Some U.S. tech companies — including Amazon, Google, Meta and Microsoft — are also stepping up their development of A.I. chips.

  • In other A.I. news: Researchers at the start-up Anthropic said that they had discovered clues about the inner workings of large language models, further illuminating A.I.’s so-called black boxes.

President Biden will release more gasoline to cut prices at the pump. His administration plans to tap a million barrels from storage sites in the Northeast ahead of the July 4 holiday. Skeptics said the move appeared to be driven by politics, but others noted that Congress had required the closure of those sites by the end of September.

China is reportedly ready to impose tariffs on some imported cars. Beijing may introduce levies as high as 25 percent on vehicles with large engines, according to the China Chamber of Commerce to the E.U., citing unnamed “insiders.” That would escalate the trade fight between China and the West; shares in automakers likely to be affected, including Mercedes-Benz and BMW, fell on the announcement.

Apple pushes back against regulators. The tech giant said it planned to move to dismiss the Justice Department’s lawsuit that claims the iPhone ecosystem operated like a monopoly. Apple has also sued to overturn a $1.9 billion fine by the European Union over anticompetitive tactics against music-streaming rivals including Spotify, according to Bloomberg.

The founder of the World Economic Forum is stepping down as executive chairman. Klaus Schwab, who turned a Swiss business gathering into a global conclave of C.E.O.s, political leaders and nonprofit chiefs, will step back to become chairman of the group’s board of trustees. The forum has given more power in recent years to an executive board that includes Borge Brende, its president and a former Norwegian lawmaker.

Cryptocurrencies are becoming a favored asset on Wall Street amid investor interest in Bitcoin-related funds and growing optimism for similar instruments tied to the Ether token.

Another milestone could come on Wednesday with the House set to vote on new crypto legislation.

The bill aims to resolve a regulatory turf war. The S.E.C. and the Commodity Futures Trading Commission have jurisdiction over different types of crypto assets, a division that companies say is holding back their industry. Crypto-friendly Republicans see Rostin Behnam, the chair of the C.F.T.C., as open to engagement, while they accuse his counterpart at the S.E.C., Gary Gensler, of regulatory overreach.

Both agencies helped write the legislation, which would settle which of them has oversight of various tokens and specify disclosure rules meant to protect consumers.

The bill has bipartisan support but faces longer odds in the Senate.

Crypto investors are hoping for more regulatory good news. In January, the S.E.C. approved the creation of funds that allow investors to more easily buy and sell Bitcoin, kicking off the recent trading frenzy. The agency faces a Thursday deadline on whether to allow similar funds tied to Ether.

Analysts are again feeling bullish about approval, which could set off another rally in Ether.

The crypto industry has begun to throw its money around. Its super PACs have raised $85 million this election cycle to help elect supportive candidates. That surge coincides with a staggering rally in Bitcoin’s price over the past year. (Donald Trump’s re-election campaign is also tapping that wave by accepting crypto donations.)

“Some of our biggest champions are on both sides of the aisle,” Collin McCune, head of government affairs at the venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz, which has bet big on crypto, told DealBook. “Crypto is being discussed in a lot of battleground states,” he added.

Team owners and executives have begun a two-day quarterly meeting at a hotel in Nashville — and they have much to deliberate. On the agenda: finances, overseas expansion and diversity in the front office.

DealBook’s Lauren Hirsch and The Times’s Ken Belson have the inside color on what’s being discussed behind closed doors.

Executives are weighing where to expand internationally. The league outlined destinations for future regular season games, three people with knowledge of the meeting told DealBook. They include: Australia, Brazil, Britain, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Japan and the Middle East (probably Abu Dhabi). The N.F.L. is conducting due diligence on those locations, some of which already host games.

The hope is that more international games will increase overseas interest in the N.F.L. when the future of the league’s primary source of revenue — media rights deals — looks increasingly uncertain as the television landscape fractures.

The N.F.L. is preparing for (some) progress on letting private equity in. The league remains one of the few worldwide that hasn’t allowed institutional investors to own a stake in teams. But escalating valuations for franchises — the Washington Commanders sold for $6 billion last year — have made it increasingly difficult to buy teams without outside capital.

Over the past eight months, the league has been considering a test run: letting preapproved private equity firms take small stakes, potentially up to 10 percent, over the next few years.

Team owners are expected to discuss the potential plan on Wednesday, at the gathering’s owners-only closing meeting. They may, informally, through a show of hands, decide whether to move forward. That could give investment firms some sense of what to expect if they are ever allowed into the N.F.L. ownership club.

Years before Boesky was charged with insider trading, Joe Nocera, who went on to become a Times business columnist, got a behind-the-scenes glimpse at his tactics (even though, Nocera writes for DealBook, he didn’t realize it at the time).

I wrote my first business story when I was 30 years old, and Ivan Boesky, who died on Monday at the age of 87, was a minor, unnamed character in it. That’s what you call a rookie mistake, but then again, I was a rookie. If I had understood what Boesky was trying to do, I might have exposed his tactics years before the government charged him with insider trading in 1987. Live and learn.

My story was about Boone Pickens’s first takeover attempt, in 1982, with the oil company Cities Service as his target. Hostile takeovers were still new, and there were just a handful of renegades leading the charge, among them Michael Milken, Carl Icahn, Pickens — and Boesky.

In Wall Street’s parlance, Boesky was “an arb” — short for arbitrageur, someone who took a stake in companies rumored to be takeover bait, betting that a “corporate raider” would make a run at them, or, if a takeover fight was already underway, that a deal would be completed.

Pickens was letting me chronicle his takeover attempt. Every day, I would sit by his side for hours as he worked the phones. Boesky was a daily caller.

Pickens rarely put Boesky on speakerphone, so I never heard his questions. But Pickens’ answers were always similar. “Ivan, you’re an important shareholder, and I value your input, but you know I can’t really talk about that.” Was Boesky trying to wheedle inside information from Pickens? Of course. Was I the only person in the room who didn’t understand that? Undoubtedly.

After Boesky was caught, he became a government informant before spending three years in prison. As for Pickens, he had his share of ups and downs in his long life (he died in 2019), but he was never accused of the kind of crimes that brought down so many, including Milken, in the 1980s.

Years later, I asked Pickens if he knew what Boesky was up to back in the day. He laughed. “What do you take me for, Joe?” he replied.


  • Blackstone will give equity to most employees at companies it acquires in leveraged buyouts as private equity firms embrace wider stock ownership of their portfolio businesses. (WSJ)

  • In A.I. deal making: Tech giants invested $1 billion in Scale AI, which helps manage training data for developers, at a $14 billion valuation; the French start-up H raised $220 million from investors including Accel; and Humane, the maker of a ballyhooed wearable A.I. gadget, is reportedly seeking a buyer. (CNBC, Bloomberg)


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