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As Consumers Demand ‘Natural,’ Stevia Set to Become Blockbuster Product

stevia_plantWith the introduction of a reformulated Sprite, Coca-Cola (NYSE:KO) is taking a risk with one of its important brands to find new ways to retain customers more sensitive than ever about the adverse health effects of sugar and sweeteners. Artificial sweeteners make up a significant portion of the soft drink market, and both Coke’s and PepsiCo’s (NYSE:PEP) last earnings reports revealed stagnant growth in major markets while emerging market growth is still proceeding apace.  The need to find ways to stimulate demand in the US and Europe is becoming acute, and the drive toward higher perceived food quality is one vector to turn around shrinking margins.

Stevia, unlike aspartame, saccharin, or sucralose is an extract from a plant, and therefore carries the connotation of being natural, which is becoming more and more important in today’s food and beverage market.  Ben & Jerry’s, a division of Unilever (NYSE:UL), made headlines recently with its pledge to eschew the use of GMO foods in its ice cream’s supply chain by 2015.

Nvidia Looks Vulnerable After Nexus Loss

Graphics chipmaker Nvidia (NASDAQ:NVDA) is in a difficult position long term.  While its discrete graphics card business is still relatively strong, taking market share in 2012 from rival AMD (NYSE:AMD), this is a market that, overall, will continue to shrink in the coming months and years.  To its credit Nvidia has attempted to move into different markets, most notably the low-power mobile SoC (system on a chip) market with its Tegra line of ARM-based solutions.  Now, it is in the process of launching its fourth generation of the Tegra based on the Cortex A-15 core, for which early benchmarks are long on big numbers and short on context.  The news last month confirming rumors that the company would not be supplying the SoC at the heart of the next Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) Nexus 7 tablet deals a serious blow to the company’s projected sales for the rest of 2013.

NVIDIA-Grid

Read the rest over at Minyanville.

The Other Merck Soars on Liquid Crystal Business

liquid crystalGermany’s second leading pharmaceutical firm and one of the biggest family controlled organizations in this sector Merck KGaA recently released its quarterly results that topped estimates on the back of a cost cutting drive. The pharmaceutical company doesn’t have much attractive in its current pipeline, yet it continues to attract investment because of its unique sales mix — drugs and liquid-crystals, a market whose oversupply problems are finally coming to an end.

Read the rest at Investor’s Hub Daily.

AMD Pounces on Intel with Jaguar

intel_vs_amdAMD (NYSE:$AMD) has had possibly one of the roughest couple of years that a company can have and still be functional.  Serious underperformance of the last two top-end CPU cores – “Bulldozer” and “Piledriver” – versus Intel’s (NASDAQ:$INTC) Sandy Bridge derivatives have seriously degraded market share in the personal computing space due to real-world single-threaded performance among other issues.  Only in the low-power, low-cost – and therefore low-margin – business could AMD compete with anything Intel had to offer.  Its Brazos E-series APU’s built on the 40nm ‘Bobcat’ core were head and shoulders above anything Intel could muster from its aging Atom line. And it’s there where the hopes of AMD’s resurrection will be placed.

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Yahoo’s Google Move Makes Current Sense

Yahoo! Inc (NASDAQ:$YHOO) revealed last month that it will start using its rival Google’s (NASDAQ:$GOOG) advertising services Adsense and AdMob as it looks to increase its revenue base. In an official blog post dated 6th February, the company said that it has entered in a non-exclusive agreement for contextual advertising to be displayed on Yahoo and its co-branded sites for autos, finance, news and sports. This is in line with Yahoo’s CEO and a former Google executive Marissa Mayer’s strategy to give a better experience to Yahoo’s users through more customized ads so that they can spend more time on Yahoo properties. Although Yahoo’s users won’t notice any significant change it is almost certain that Yahoo will see increasing revenues through its partnership with Google.

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Peter Pham is an author, international fund manager, and a registered financial director by the Cayman Monetary Authority (CIMA). In 2013 he published his first book entitled, The Big Trade: Simple Strategies for Maximum Market Returns. He currently manages the portfolio of a global hedge fund and runs an asset management company, Phoenix Capital.  (read more)

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