Prices increases in ethereum, monero and other cryptocurrencies could spark a sales boost for makers of graphics cards (GPUs), according to one Wall Street analyst who covers the market.
In a research note to clients over the weekend, Mitch Steves of RBC Capital Markets argued that recent double-digit percentage increases in prices for some cryptocurrencies could drive more miners to enter the market, as well as drive established miners to expand their capacity by buying new GPUs.
Mining – an energy-intensive process by which new transactions are added to a blockchain – has already resulted in notable sales boosts for companies like Nvidia and Advanced Micro Devices (AMD), as previously reported by CoinDesk.
"We are flagging this now, as the payback period has decreased materially which may lead to continued strength in GPU sales related to cryptocurrency mining," Steves wrote, adding:
"For illustrative purposes, when the price of ethereum was at $300 the payback period was approximately 9.4 months; today it is now approximately 5.6 months – a change we view as material."
After bottoming out as low as $286 in early November, ethereum surged to $453 – a 58 percent increase – over the weekend. Monero has nearly doubled in value over the course of the month from $82 to $161, while zcash has surged 49 percent from $213 to $318 during November.
A resurgence in mining demand would be noteworthy because many observers – including Nvidia and AMD, the primary manufacturers of the GPUs used in mining – were predicting just weeks ago that the cryptocurrency mining boom – and thus GPU sales – was beginning to tail off after posting eye-popping sales figures and exhausting inventories in the first half of the year.
In its third-quarter earnings report, Nvidia noted that mining-related GPU revenues were down from $150 million in the second quarter to just $70 million and predicted that trend to continue. Lisa Su, AMD CEO, similarly told investors on her third quarter conference call that "there will be some leveling-off of some of the cryptocurrency demand."
According to Steves, that outcome may not be so certain anymore.
While noting that it's still too early to assess the market's long-term sustainability, Steves said that it is likely due to a confluence of technology improvements and more traditional investors taking interest in mining.
"The 'cat is out of the bag' so to speak and we wouldn't be surprised to see more and more institutional money and high-net-worth individuals invest in the rapidly growing space."
Disclosure: CoinDesk is a subsidiary of Digital Currency Group, which has an ownership stake in Zcash Company, the for-profit entity supporting zcash's development.
GPUs image via ezphoto/Shutterstock.com