The Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES:^DJI) was down about 0.32% at 1:45 p.m. EST Tuesday as early gains evaporated. The combination of optimism surrounding COVID-19 vaccines and the stimulus bill recently signed by President Trump was apparently not enough to keep the rally alive into the afternoon.
Shares of Intel (NASDAQ:INTC) were up even as a rival chip start-up focused on artificial intelligence (AI) chips scored funding to fuel growth. That surge was likely due to an activist hedge fund pushing for changes. Meanwhile, Boeing (NYSE:BA) was little changed after the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) planned to implement new rules for certifying airplanes.
Upstart chip company scores funding
Intel’s central processing units (CPUs) are fast, but they can’t compete with chips tailor-made for specific tasks. Take graphics, for example. Graphics processing units (GPUs) from NVIDIA are designed to handle the math involved in taking a huge number of polygons and translating them to an image on the screen. GPUs are also good at accelerating artificial intelligence workloads, providing huge speedups compared to general-purpose CPUs.
But a chip designed specifically for AI should outclass even GPUs. Graphcore, a start-up focused on building such chips, could be the company to dethrone the GPU in the world of AI. Graphcore announced on Tuesday that it had raised $222 million in Series E funding to help fuel its growth strategy.
Graphcore designs a line of chips called intelligence processing units (IPUs) that are aimed solely at accelerating AI. The company has already delivered chips to major customers like Microsoft and Dell, and it claims systems built around its chips vastly outperform systems built around GPUs.
Intel is going after the AI opportunity in multiple ways. The company recently entered the discrete GPU market, and it also sells field-programmable gate arrays aimed at AI tasks. And while its Xeon server processors can’t compete with GPUs and other more specialized chips for AI, they’re still necessary for the servers that host AI-specific chips.
Intel has dominated the era of general-purpose computing. Whether the company can be as successful in a world where specialized chips become widespread remains to be seen. Intel stock was up about 4.4% by early Tuesday afternoon, with the surge driven by an activist hedge fund pressing for changes at the company.
Boeing to face new regulations
Boeing will face increased scrutiny in the future after the FAA said that it will change how it certifies new airplanes to align with legislation signed by President Trump on Sunday. The bill gives the FAA more oversight over airplane manufacturers, requires critical safety information disclosures, and provides whistleblower protections, according to Reuters.
The changes come after a nearly two-year grounding of Boeing’s 737 MAX following two fatal crashes tied to faulty flight control systems. The 737 MAX was set to resume commercial flights in the U.S. on Tuesday.
The bill requires an independent review of Boeing’s safety culture while repealing rules that had allowed FAA employees to receive bonuses based on manufacturer-set schedules or quotas. This could slow down the approval of future airplanes, but it’s hard to argue that those rules ever made sense from a safety perspective.
Shares of Boeing were unchanged by early Tuesday afternoon. The stock remains down roughly 33% this year.