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Best of the Blogs: Sony Offers Cheaper Alternative to the MacBook Air


Plus, will the severe drought in the US lead to demand rationing?

MINYANVILLE ORIGINAL This column highlights the most interesting and useful business and financial commentary from around the Web each day. Use our comments section to post your own suggestions for blog content that you've read or written.

Link: Sony's First Ultrabook Targets the Budget-Conscious

"If you're shopping for a new laptop, you might find the term 'Ultrabook' popping up a lot during your research. An Ultrabook is thinner and lighter than a regular laptop, but it doesn't sacrifice such features as a full keyboard, and it uses a different kind of memory instead of traditional hard drives to offer speed and good battery life, so you can use it as your main computer for everyday tasks like browsing the Web and working on documents. After a trend started by Apple's MacBook Air (AAPL), Windows PC makers such as HP, Dell, and Samsung offer them, and now Sony (SNE) has joined the fray.

"Over the past week, I've been testing the Sony Vaio T13, the company's first Ultrabook, and what makes it stand out from the pack is its affordable price tag. The cost of Ultrabooks still hovers in the $1,000 range but the Vaio T series starts at $770. By comparison, the similarly featured Dell XPS 13 costs $999 and up, while the 13-inch MacBook Air starts at $1,199."

Barron's: Focus On Funds
Link: Wheat, Corn Funds Notch Highs, Morgan Stanley Sees 'Demand Rationing,' Double-Digit Corn Prices

"About that massive drought and the turmoil in U.S. commodity markets: Yes, there is a specialized exchange-traded funds tracking wheat. There's another tracking only corn. They're both at fresh highs this morning.

"The Teucrium Wheat Fund (WEAT), launched late last year, hit a fresh lifetime high in morning trading and is up 1.4% to $25.23 at the moment. Companion Teucrium Corn Fund (CORN) has been around since 2010. This one matched its September 2011 of $50.69 this morning and has since backed off by a quarter or so.

"Yesterday we noted a dose of strategist skepticism that corn prices will keep heading higher - read it here. This morning we give you a different view: Rationing!"

CNN Money: Tech
Link: Viacom Says DirecTV talks have 'moved backwards'

"More than one week into their cable blackout, the standoff between Viacom (VIA) and DirecTV (DTV) isn't showing any signs of thawing. The two sides are at an impasse, according to a scathing blog post Viacom fired off on Wednesday.

"'It's now clear that they have no intention of working with us to expedite a resolution,' Viacom wrote about the discussions. 'DirecTV has moved backwards significantly and created more obstacles to reaching an agreement.'"

Financial Times: BeyondBRICS
Link: Nokia in China: It's All Relative

"For Nokia (NOK), any glimmer of hope is good news. The Finnish phonemaker and networks company on Thursday announced its Q2 results. Despite sales falling 19% and a loss of 826 million euros, its shares were up 14% cent at one point.

"So where's the positive news coming from? Not China, certainly – yet. Despite high hopes for the country, it was the worst performing region by net sales.

"Instead, analysts pointed to Nokia's stronger-than-expected cash position, as well as smaller losses than feared, as possible reasons for the rising share price. Equally, Nokia's shares are now priced so cheaply – at 1.53 euros at time of writing, compared to more than 27 euros in 2007, and 11.50 euors as recently as April 2010 – that such a big percentage increases is less surprising from a low base."

Link: Study: Facebook Mobile Ads Are Four Times More Engaging Than Twitter Ads

"In a sign that Facebook (FB) may finally be getting its mobile act together, a new study by TBG Digital indicates Facebook's mobile ad click-through rate is about 1.1%, more than four times higher than Twitter's 0.266 mobile CTR.

"Mobile growth has been troublesome for Facebook, and the company made a case before its IPO that mobile was one of its biggest risk factors. The company might even be planning to build its own phone to deal with this issue. But the new study at least provides a glimmer of hope for the company's mobile ad prospects and shows that its newsfeed engagement is working."

The Wall Street Journal: MarketBeat
Link: Corn Prices Hit All-Time High; Time to Harvest Profits in ETFs?

"A scorching sun has withered the Midwest corn crop and driven up prices of commodity futures and the exchange-traded funds that track them. On Thursday morning, corn futures rose to record highs.

"But according to some technicians, prices have come too far, too fast, and the charts suggest it's time to take the money and run.

"Hot, dry weather in Corn Belt states such as Iowa and Illinois has reduced expectations for this autumn's corn harvest. Starting in June, futures traders started to bid up corn prices, anticipating the summer's drought could further crimp output. September corn-futures prices are up about 50% since the middle of last month."

Twitter: @ChrisWitrak
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