• Cannabis

    Dec 10, 2023 Coca Leaf Ventures: Mapping Pharma & Nutraceuticals, Value Chain And Investment Opportunities

    Despite the stigma, the coca plant is effectively entering the drug reform movement as part of an expected “third wave of decriminalization” along with other controlled substances including psychedelics. 

    Companies are gearing up by specializing in different parts of the value chain, from analytical testing for safe supply, research and innovation on the plant’s different components, to the clinical infrastructure for safe and effective provision of the new treatments.

    Benzinga spoke with Ronan Levy, president of Safe Supply Streaming Co., for a deep dive into the topic. See conversation’s Part 1.

    Pharma And Nutraceutical Worlds

    Levy says the “relaunched” era of the coca leaf plant will bring about both nutraceutical and pharmaceutical products to market. 

    Harbor, a Safe Supply-incubated company, imports coca leaf extract into Canada for analysis and exploration into its potential applications in nutraceuticals, food and energy products and supplements, considering its components are not “fully known” to date.

    “There are many therapeutic applications of just the coca leaf extract, which is basically coca leaf with the cocaine removed, so it's de-cocainized. That's one area of interest,” Levy said. 

    Other companies will likely take the cocaine or other alkaloids and modify them to try and turn them into pharmaceutical products for FDA and Health Canada approval for clinical trials. 

    Cocaine’s potential as a stimulant, acting on dopamine and norepinephrine like Adderall and other ADHD medications, is one area of interest, “but also the low-hanging fruit.” 

    Meanwhile, other interesting opportunities include helping with altitude sickness and helping the body uptake more oxygen or even gastrointestinal discomfort and disorder applications. “So an active area of exploration, I think, with a lot of incredible potential.” 

    Historical Background, Scheduling, & Coca-Cola

    For Levy, the coca plant's historical pathway is analogous to that of psychedelics: a renewed excitement around their therapeutic applications, but not much research as yet available.

    The scant research opens the door for "a great wealth of discoveries" as he sees it as traditional use dates back thousands of years.

    The plant’s alkaloid cocaine is a Schedule II drug in the U.S., “meaning it has a high risk of abuse, but there is a therapeutic application to it.” In Canada it’s a Schedule I drug, so appropriate licenses enable companies and researchers to work with it. 

    At the end of the XIX century, Coca-Cola’s original formulations were known to have had coca in them, including cocaine. And to this day, it includes decocainized coca leaf extract in small, small amounts. Meaning the coca leaf extract is available in the U.S. through Coca-Cola.

    Once the extract is decocainized, Levy says, there are no real restrictions on use and importation. A potential regulatory extrapolation for other targets?

    Safe Supply Or Spanning Across The Drug Ecosystem

    Levy says the businesses’ incubator is drug-agnostic, focusing on opportunity and need. This means considering MDMA-assisted therapy’s imminent FDA approval or cannabis in jurisdictions where reform is just beginning.

    Fentanyl Crisis 

    “One of the results of the War on Drugs is that drug use is at an all-time high -cocaine, cannabis, psychedelics. And we have the most toxic drug supply ever, getting caught with fentanyl and xylazine. So people who are using, whether there's a dependence or recreational, are taking much more significant risks with their lives,” Levy says. 

    This brings about new technologies to help people test their supply across more and less progressive jurisdictions, enabling them to be “at least equipped to make informed decisions on what they put into their body instead of taking a chance.” 

    For the coca plant, Levy sees opportunities on the supply side: Harbor gets the extract from a government-run company, and the only legal operator and producer of coca leaf in the world. It also has access to the alkaloids (including cocaine.)

    “So there'll be opportunities to start drug development work and other clinical trials,” Levy told Benzinga. This includes providing safe cocaine supplies for governments with safe swap programs.   

    “The distribution and value chains haven't been fully built yet, but you can start to see the pieces moving into place. That's where the first mover will have lots of opportunity, being ahead of the curve in terms of infrastructure building and identifying the opportunities coming with it,” he added.


    The basic thesis of Safe Supply is to involve investors who want exposure to a diversified platform of companies in the emerging drug ecosystem. Opportunities span across the substances’ spectrum and geography.

    Photo: Benzinga edit with photo by Unsplash.

  • Fintech

    Dec 08, 2023 Mapping Retail Trading Trends With Katie Perry: The Marketing Pro Returns To Her Entrepreneurial Roots

    Fintech marketing powerhouse Katie Perry spoke with Benzinga about her experiences at Public, as well as her plans to launch a new venture — Ursa Major Media.

    BZ: What motivated you to join Public in the first place?

    Katie Perry: I spent over four years at Public, joining in the fall of 2019. My motivation to join stemmed from getting to know one of its co-CEOs during a consulting project. His ability to execute and strong marketing conviction made it a no-brainer for me. Even back then, I believed in Public’s vision and considered it a special opportunity.

    BZ: Benzinga recognized Public as the Best Social Investing Platform at the recent Future of Digital Assets event in New York City. How did your role at the firm evolve over the years?

    I was the first full-time marketing hire at Public, which was an exciting experience. Over time, I transitioned to launch a new line of business, where I handled sales, business development, partner management, investor insights, and more. It was a diverse and enjoyable journey, allowing me to engage with various aspects of the fintech community.

    BZ: What factors contributed to your decision to leave Public, and what do you see for the company in the coming months?

    The decision to leave Public was challenging, especially considering the exciting developments ahead for the company. The sophistication of the product and features designed to assist investors in making smarter choices will continue to set Public apart in the market. As always, in true Public fashion, there are more innovations on the horizon.

    BZ: What’s next for you after leaving Public, and can you tell us about your new company, Ursa Major Media?

    I returned to my entrepreneurial roots and started Ursa Major Media, a fractional marketing and consulting practice. As the owner and principal, I lead all client partnerships and deliverables, leveraging a network of complementary fractional talent. The diversity of projects allows me to utilize a mix of skills, from sales and business development to P&L management.

    BZ: How did past experiences lead to starting your new venture?

    My experiences at Public, coupled with my entrepreneurial background since my teenage years, played a significant role in my decision to start Ursa Major Media. I appreciate the hustle and freedom that come with being independent, and my varied experiences have equipped me with a range of skills across different industries.

    BZ: Reflecting on the retail trading landscape from 2019 to 2023, what are the key eras of development you observed in retail investing?

    The retail trading landscape went through distinct eras:

    • 2020: Discovery during Covid, as lockdown led to increased hands-on involvement in fractional trading.
    • 2021: Meme stocks and markets education, making the stock market mainstream.
    • 2022: Lessons from volatility, with investors focusing on risk tolerance and fundamentals.
    • 2023: Diligence and diversification, marked by a greater focus on research, sophisticated metrics, and diverse investment options.

    BZ: Can you elaborate on the trends and developments in retail trading that you witnessed in 2023, especially regarding diligence and diversification?

    In 2023, there was a heightened focus on research and due diligence among retail investors. They delved into more sophisticated metrics and charts on the platform, listened to podcasts featuring guest hosts, and used Public’s intelligence layer, Alpha, to accelerate their research. In a high-interest rate environment, investors sought yield through diversified portfolios, utilizing features like Public’s Treasury Account and exploring passive income options like the music royalties IPO.

    BZ: How do you see the evolution of conversations around investing, especially with the rise of technologies like Public? And what impact has it had on people taking control of their financial futures?

    When I started at Public, discussing stock investments was a personal endeavor. However, over time, there has been a significant shift, and now “stock talk” is commonplace at events like brunch or the Thanksgiving table. This development is remarkable, as more people than ever are using technologies like Public to take control of their financial futures, making investment conversations more accessible and widespread.

    Now Read: Resilient Retail Investors Enter A New Phase Of Growth—Here's How Their Participation In The Market Has Changed, By Katie Perry

  • Cannabis

    Dec 08, 2023 Coca Leaf, Extract, Cocaine & Safe Supply: Grasping Potentials With Sector Incubator's President Ronan Levy

    Serious research is picking up on the potential mental health benefits of coca plant. Despite its historical stigma related to its alkaloid cocaine, which has kept it a Schedule I in Canada and Schedule II in the U.S. the coca leaf is seeing a research renaissance.
    For a better understanding of the scenario for the coca plant, Benzinga spoke with Ronan Levy, advisor-turned-president of Safe Supply Streaming Co.
    Democratized Access Vs. Illicit Market Supply
    Safe Supply, now trading on the Canada and Frankfurt Stock Exchanges, invests in and incubates companies working on the legal and regulated drugs supply for a “responsible end” to the War on Drugs.
    Levy is a long-time expert in the cannabis and psychedelics capital markets and a lawyer in Ontario. He co-founded Canadian Cannabis Clinics and Aurora (NASDAQ: ACB)-acquired CanvasRx, among others.
    With jurisdictions across the globe moving toward decriminalizing, regulating and legalizing drugs, Safe Supply invests in the infrastructure needed to support the transition: facilities for analyzing, manufacturing and distributing psychoactive substances, research and innovation for harnessing their potential and minimizing harm and clinics for safe and responsible access and treatment.
    The company is targeting “everywhere,” says Levy, as its fundamental philosophy and thesis is that the War on Drugs has been a failed global policy. “People from all around the world believe that we need a new trajectory in terms of how we think about drugs and drug use and addiction and dependence.”
    Safe Supply’s first investments have been in analytical testing labs for government-backed safe programs like the one in British Columbia, where there are safe consumption and safe needle sites. A safe swap program for street drugs like cocaine is expected as well. Levy told Benzinga that they would test on-site for potential fentanyl or xylazine lacing and, if positive, “would actually swap it out” with a safe drug supply.
    A Helpful Precedent
    Levy says the renewed interest in the coca leaf is similar to what happened with hemp 15 years ago. While interest in hemp and CBD created the landscape for “real conversations” about cannabis, the same happened with people working with the coca plant.
    “Even if it’s not the cocaine or the alkaloids that create the drug, their work in many ways created the framework so we can have real conversations about the coca plant and its potential utility,” he said.
    Although the situation is still “very avant-garde,” there will likely be a learning curve on the topic. Still, he insists, there are lots of potential applications.
    “When you look at the coca plant and the alkaloids and its other ingredients, just like with psilocybin, there’s a lot of opportunity for new products and medicines. And the more work we do, the more people working in the space, the more we’re going to get toward building a different policy, and a strong, diversified industry, around ending the War on Drugs. So even though on some levels it might be competitive, I actually think most entrants in this space are complementary and really will serve a collective purpose we’ll all benefit from.”
    Next Up, Part 2 - Coca Leaf Ventures: Mapping Pharma & Nutraceuticals Future, Value Chain, And A Diversified Portfolio Opp
    Photo: Benzinga edit with photo by Raimundo79 and Blue Planet Studio on Shutterstock.

  • Top Stories

    Dec 08, 2023 Benzinga's 'Stock Whisper' Index: 5 Stocks Investors Secretly Monitor But Don't Talk About Yet

    Each week, Benzinga’s Stock Whisper Index uses a combination of proprietary data and pattern recognition to showcase five stocks that are just under the surface and warrant attention.

    Investors are constantly on the hunt for undervalued, under-followed and emerging stocks. With countless methods available to retail traders, the challenge often lies in sifting through the abundance to uncover new information.

    This index layers editorial commentary to help make sense of why these stocks should be of interest and whether investors or casual readers should watch them.

    Here is a look at the Benzinga Stock Whisper Index for the week of Dec. 8:

    Kenvue Inc (NYSE:KVUE): The owner of brands like Tylenol, Johnson's, Aveeno, Neutrogena and Listerine, Kenvue was spun out from Johnson & Johnson (NYSE:JNJ) earlier this year. Johnson & Johnson now owns around 10% of the company.

    After previously appearing on the Stock Whisper Index in August, Kenvue returns to the list seeing increased activity from traders. Options activity reported by Benzinga could suggest bearish sentiment, while analysts remain bullish on the stock. The company beat third-quarter sales estimates from analysts with earnings per share reported in-line.

    MicroAlgo Inc (NASDAQ:MLGO): The central processing algorithm company saw shares surge during the week and halted on Thursday. The move came after the company announced it planned to establish a postgraduate training practice base. Under the terms of the deal, the company would help with joint training of master's degree students.

    Shares of MicroAlgo surged over $10 on the week, but are now trading under $3 after the sharp move.

    Related Link: Is Nio Racing Ahead? Surprising Q3 Results Revealed

    NIO Inc – ADR (NYSE:NIO): The Chinese electric vehicle company had an eventful week that included three major news items highlighted by investors, which likely led to increased interest from traders. Nio reported third-quarter financial results and reported 55,432 EV deliveries in the third quarter, a total that was up 75.4% year-over-year.

    Reports of the company spinning off its battery manufacturing division to help with improved cost reductions towards profitability were well received by investors. Later in the week, shares of Nio fell as reports that the company could cut additional jobs circulated. Reports of job cuts come just weeks after a 10% workforce reduction was announced by the company.

    Satellogic Inc (NASDAQ:SATL): The satellite company announced a multi-million dollar three-year agreement with energy and technology company Uzma. The deal will see Satellogic advance its geospatial capabilities in Southeast Asia.

    "We believe this is the beginning of a new era in satellite imagery and geospatial services and Malaysia and Southeast Asia," Satellogic President Matt Tirman said.

    Shares of Satellogic are up over 140% in the last month.

    Altimmune Inc (NASDAQ:ALT): The clinical-stage biotechnology company working on treatments for obesity and liver disease saw shares surge last week after announcing results from its Phase 2 obesity trial. In the trial, 50% of patients achieved at least a 15% weight loss, with 30% of patients achieving a 20% weight loss or more.

    The results from Altimmune came shortly before pharmaceutical giant Pfizer Inc. (NYSE:PFE) reported it was stopping the development of its weight loss pill in trials. Increased interest from investors in Altimmune could also be coming as M&A increases in the sector with Roche announcing it was buying obesity drug developer Carmot Therapeutics for $3.1 billion.

    Stay tuned for next week’s report, and follow Benzinga Pro for all the latest headlines and top market-moving stories here.

    Read last week's Stock Whisper Index here.

    Read Next: How To Earn $500 Per Month From (NYSE:KVUE) Kenvue Inc.’s Stock

  • Exclusives

    Dec 08, 2023 EXCLUSIVE: Fresh After Helping Grant Cardone's 10X, Chris Tsiolis Launches Proago Marketing Systems, Helping Business Owners Digitize, Promote, Scale

    While the startup ecosystem maintained vigor since the COVID-19 pandemic, an underlying narrative forewarned challenges that may disrupt this momentum and threaten unprepared founders and operators.

    In this context, Chris Tsiolis recently engaged with Benzinga for an hour-long interview. He shed light on cultivating relationships and navigating the complexities of 2024 through automation, offering examples from his recent collaborations with finance and influencer marketing figures, such as Grant Cardone.

    Immigrant Roots And The American Dream

    A Chicago native of Greek descent, Tsiolis’s problem-solving skills and confidence in business stem from his family's relentless pursuit of the American Dream.

    “That immigrant idea that you must build yourself remains true,” he said, noting having engineers as parents, speaking multiple languages, and playing instruments like the cello “built new pathways” and fostered creativity. Armed with a degree in philosophy and creative writing, Tsiolis sought his place in the professional world by becoming an unpaid CEO understudy.

    “Naturally, I thought advertising or writing would be the logical progression to finding a job. That’s when I explored opportunities in Chicago and discovered a chance to work for free at a mid-sized advertising agency. Collaborating closely with the agency's owner, I engaged in everything from media buying to copywriting, creative design, auditions, and shooting commercials.”

    From there, Tsiolis’s journey unfolded unexpectedly, guiding him through radio promotion, journalism at the World Series of Poker and finance.

    Picture: Chris Tsiolis, a 2023 Seminole Hard Rock Poker Open Event 11 Champion.

    “My passion for probability games of skill led me to play poker professionally and the world of options,” he recalled. His run-in with options trader Andrew Keene at a poker game catapulted him into a career in financial marketing and working with CNBC’s Jon Najarian and Pete Najarian.

    Playing pivotal roles at optionMONSTER and Market Rebellion, co-founded by the Najarians, Tsiolis landed partnerships and orchestrated events generating millions in sales. This success eventually caught the attention of Jarrod Glandt, president at Grant Cardone Enterprises, who scouted Tsiolis.

    Pictured: Chris Tsiolis, left. Shark Tank’s Kevin O’Leary, middle. Jon Najarian, right.

    Customer-Centrism And Proximity

    Central to Tsiolis’s career moves and success is empathizing with the customer.

    “I had immersed myself in Grant’s materials, absorbing every piece, and utilized the content and strategies to build up Market Rebellion into a $30 million per year subscription machine. When the opportunity arose to promote the Grant Cardone brand, I pursued it because it felt like the decision had chosen me. I was well-versed and believed wholeheartedly in the content — I was a customer and a believer in the message before I was an employee.”

    Additionally, Tsiolis believed strongly in proximity and getting close to decision-makers who operate within structured processes and those driven by top-line revenue targets.

    “Seeing the differences firsthand still guides my work. I can tap into those experiences on both spectrums and use that as a rule of thumb.”

    Develop A Passion And Monetize It

    Tsiolis encouraged aspiring entrepreneurs and recent graduates to pursue a passion or skill that brings fulfillment, citing his success as an example.

    “The secret is being able to do something you love, like writing, repeatedly until it starts yielding results in the real world,” he said. “You don’t have to reinvent the wheel to solve problems and help people.”

    Tsiolis also advocated iteration, having varied offerings, and building communities through newsletters, for example, for sales or feedback. It revolved around applying the scientific method and adopting what he termed a "neural network mindset" — whether in statistical analysis within the gambling realm, the iterative process of testing and refining as a marketer, or the utilization of machine learning algorithms. Tsiolis saw these approaches as connected and deviating from them represented “slipping backward.”

    Moving Forward With Automation, AI

    Despite interest rates and inflation concerns, Tsiolis asserted the American Dream was alive and well for entrepreneurs. Accordingly, he was betting on himself.

    "I am embracing the wave of AI automation," he said in a discussion on how to hedge 2024 risks.

    "I navigate life with the mentality of a gambler in search of the next winning hand, always anticipating the next possibility and embracing failure as part of the journey. With a wealth of experience and clout, I've navigated these challenges thousands of times, enabling me to iterate and adapt seamlessly—I am desensitized to setbacks."

    Much like the revolutionary shift from manual bookkeeping to computer-based accounting, AI promises remarkable efficiency gains in marketing and communication. However, the challenge lies in the early stages, lacking widespread use cases.

    With Proago Marketing Systems, Tsiolis wants to make AI accessible and practical for entrepreneurs and business owners with notable applications like automated messaging, customized sales qualification chatbots and social media analytics.

    “All the strategies I've honed over the past decade — crafting diverse digital campaigns and advertisements tailored to various platforms to educate audiences — are now being systematized and expanded,” Tsiolis ended.

    “At Proago, we can initiate this process with code integrated into your website, channeling your social traffic. This evolves into a dynamic marketing ecosystem, proving especially pertinent as advertising networks and social media platforms pivot away from first-party data.”

    Photo: Courtesy Chris Tsiolis

  • Cannabis

    Dec 06, 2023 How Does Cannabis Reclassification To Schedule III Differ From De-Scheduling & What Is Ideal Reform? Legal Expert Explains

    Over the past several years, the US cannabis industry has experienced many important milestones. Among the important ones are the 24 states to date have legalized adult-use cannabis and some 40 states that have launched medical marijuana programs, President Biden’s pardon of some 6,500 federal cannabis prisoners and call on governors to do the same for state prisoners. The most recent breakthrough happened this August when the Health and Human Services recommended Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) reclassify marijuana to a Schedule III Substance

    Cannabis is currently categorized as a Schedule 1 Substance, meaning it has no accepted medical value and has high abuse potential. Other substances that fall under this category include heroin, LSD, ecstasy, etc. 

    To learn more about what reclassification and other possible reforms such as the SAFER Act would mean for the industry Benzinga reached out to a legal expert, Michael Rosenblum. Partner at Thompson Coburn LLP and co-chair of the company’s cannabis group, Rosenblum previously served as general counsel at well-known marijuana company Stiiizy. Since 2017, he represented cannabis clients building his acumen on mergers and acquisitions, real estate, and regulatory matters. 

    “Reclassifying cannabis to Schedule III means that the federal government no longer views cannabis as being among the riskiest drugs,” Rosenblum told Benzinga Although cannabis would remain a controlled substance, rescheduling would reduce the obstacles faced by businesses and consumers.” The most important benefit for weed businesses would be tax relief regarding the issue of the IRS code 280E, which prohibits the marijuana industry from taking federal deductions.

    What About De-scheduling?

    “If cannabis were to be de-scheduled, it would no longer be listed as a controlled substance on any of the CSA schedules (such as alcohol or tobacco),” Rosenblum said. “It would still be subject to rules, but would have fewer restrictions than controlled substances under the CSA.”

    Taking HHS's recommendations into account Rosenblum believes that de-scheduling is very unlikely, while rescheduling to Schedule III is likely to “occur before the 2024 presidential election, and may happen much sooner.”

    An Ideal Federal Cannabis Reform

    According to Rosenblum, an ideal cannabis reform would include legalization regulation, taxation and criminal justice aspects that would consist of the following:

    1. Remove (and expressly exclude) cannabis from the Controlled Substances Act; 
    2. Preserve states’ authority to regulate cannabis;

    3. Allowing cannabis to be transported across state lines (including through a state in which cannabis remains illegal to a jurisdiction in which cannabis is lawful);

    4. Expunge past nonviolent cannabis convictions and dismiss pending charges and convictions awaiting sentencing;

    5. Impose a low federal excise tax (on recreational sales only) and use the proceeds to fund loans to small cannabis businesses and enforcement efforts against unlicensed operators. 

    What About the SAFER Banking Act? 

    This year in cannabis was marked by yet another milestone that could ultimately improve banking access for marijuana businesses through the SAFER Banking Act. An earlier version of the bill, passed the House seven times but failed in Senate both under Democratic and Republican control.

    According to Rosenblum, the SAFER act is “particularly beneficial for small and midsize operators, as the MSOs and larger companies already have access to banking services.” He added that even though there are many workarounds to address restrictions on credit card and debit card payments, such as cashless ATMs, they are generally still not compliant and create risks and additional costs for operators.

    See Also: No More Weed Schemes: Pot Retailers Can No Longer Use Cashless ATMs, What Now & Why SAFE Might Not Be The Answer

    “While the SAFER Banking Act will be valuable for certain purposes, its impact will be somewhat limited given that it does not legalize cannabis federally, “Rosenblum said. “For example, it may not be much help for retailers facing ongoing challenges with payment methods. Even if the SAFER Banking Act passes, it is unclear whether major credit card companies will permit their networks to be used for processing cannabis transactions, given their policy of prohibiting illegal goods and services.”

    What’s also very important, he says it that SAFER doesn’t resolve some of the biggest industry challenges such as access to capital. “Institutional lenders may view the Act as another step in the right direction, but may still not be comfortable deploying capital in the space until cannabis is federally legalized.”

    Furthermore, the potential listing eligibility of U.S. cannabis companies on NASDAQ and the New York Stock Exchange will remain uncertain even if the SAFER Act becomes law, Rosenblum points out.

    The cannabis legal expert believes that there’s a chance of SAFER passing despite many hurdles including disputes regarding amendments to the text of the bill. 

    “Certain advocates may perceive the bill as marginally diminished in significance, with the cannabis re-scheduling now an imminent possibility,” Rosenblum concluded. 

    Photo: Benzinga edit with courtesy images, photo from Dee via Pixabay, and Ajay Parthasarathy via Unsplash

  • Equities

    Dec 07, 2023 Retail Therapy For Year-End Rally? 3 Top Analyst Stock Picks In E-Commerce, Banking

    Get on board the year-end rally with some retail therapy, says Marc Chaikin, founder of Chaikin Analytics but, as with all investment, be selective.

    “I love the conversations on the retail space,” he said while appearing on Benzinga’s Premarket Prep on Thursday.

    But he’s not thinking of the value stores, such as Dollar General (NASDAQ:DG), which just reported stronger-than-expected third-quarter earnings on Thursday.

    “DG still has a bearish grading and it’s been underperforming for so long that I wouldn’t touch that,” he said.

    There are three retail-related stocks he loves, however:

    1. Etsy (NASDAQ:ETSY) – the online marketplace
    2. Shopify (NYSE:SHOP) – the Canadian e-commerce group
    3. Block (NYSE:SQ) – the retail payments company

    Talking of market entry levels, Chaikin said, “you can go out and grab Etsy and Block right now.” Shopify currently trades at levels where it’s best to wait until its shares come down a little, he added.

    “Everywhere I went to do my holiday shopping — the shopping cart was Shopify — they’re doing nice tie-ins with analytics companies. The same thing is true with Block,” he said.

    Also Read: Dollar General, Ollie’s Shares Fall: Analysts Positive On Results, Investors Take Profits

    Good Environment for Banks

    Chaikin also likes a number of “conservative” banks. “I think we have a wonderful interest rate environment for the banks — financials have been amazing for two months.”

    His picks in this sector are:

    1. PNC Financial Services Group (NYSE:PNC) – the Pittsburgh-based bank and asset manager
    2. Bank of New York Mellon (NYSE:BK) – the NYC-based financial services company
    3. Truist Financial Corp (NYSE:TFC) – the Carolina-based banking and asset management company

    “I’d stay away from the bigger players — there’s more juice in these names and less exposure to the international front on trading desks,” Chaikin said.

    Where’s The Overheating?

    Healthcare is a really tough place to be at the moment, Chaikin cautioned. He also suggested avoiding the tech stocks at the moment.

    “I’ve seen traders come in and buy weakness in tech stocks, but you can’t really touch tech until it pulls back.”

    Watch the entire interview with Marc Chaikin on Benzinga’s Premarket Prep below.

    Now Read: Why Is Shopify Stock Trading Lower Wednesday?

    Photo: Shutterstock

  • Equities

    Dec 07, 2023 Stephen Cohen Selling, Cathie Wood Buying: What's Going On With Palantir Stock?

    Palantir Technologies Inc‘s (NYSE:PLTR) stock is being actively traded by the who’s who over the past two days. On Tuesday, the company’s co-founder and president Stephen Cohen, sold a good volume of the stock, sending Palantir stock down by 3% on pre-market trading on Wednesday.

    Cohen made the sale after converting B shares to A shares. He sold 500,000 shares on 12/01/23 and another 156,100 shares on 12/04/23 at prices around $19-$20.

    The value of the stock sold was nearly $13 million.

    This news was shortly followed by quite the opposite news.

    On Wednesday, Cathie Wood-led Ark Investment Management fund made a notable trade by purchasing a total of 1,578,738 Palantir stock for $27.04 million. ARK Innovation ETF (NYSE:ARKK) acquired nearly 1.2 million shares, ARK Next Generation Internet ETF (NYSE:ARKW) bought 232,050 shares, and ARK Fintech Innovation ETF (NYSE:ARKF) purchased 145,910 shares.

    Related: Cathie Wood’s Ark Invest Doubles Down On Palantir Amid Correction, Scoops Up Over $27M Worth Of Stock

    Palantir shares closed nearly 6.4% lower at $17.13 on Wednesday. Palantir stock was down nearly 9.5% over the past month. Wood scooped up a decent amount in the innovation-led company’s stock during its correction phase.

    The move aligns with Wood's history of investing in disruptive technologies, as highlighted in a recent Benzinga article. Despite recent challenges, including a decline in Palantir's stock value, Ark's investment could be seen as a strategic move anticipating future growth.

    The move re-iterates Ark Investment Management’s continuous emphasis on businesses that are potentially disruptive and innovative.

    PLTR Price Action: Palantir stock is up 145% over the past year. The stock gained little by noon on Thursday, up 0.05%. The Golden Cross established in early November with the 50-day SMA crossing over the 100-day SMA, indicated positive investor sentiments around the stock.

    Read Next: Palantir’s Stock Surge Meets Potential Pause

  • Cannabis

    Dec 07, 2023 Why Doesn't Smoking Medical Marijuana Make Sense? Expert Talks About Other Beneficial Consumption Methods

    As the cannabis industry slowly develops and clears its name from decades of mysterious disrepute, scientists are figuring out many of the unknowns about this wondrous plant and its effects on humans. 

    At the same time, technological progress is providing us with different forms of cannabis use, both for medical and recreational purposes. Thanks to science, we also understand more about specific cannabinoids such as CBD, CBG and THC and adjusting the dosing. 

    From ritual cannabis smoking and infusing it in alcohol to be used for different ailments, marijuana has come a long way. Benzinga wanted to learn more, so we reached out to Susanne Caspar, the CEO of Linnea, a Swiss-based manufacturer of high-quality active pharmaceutical ingredients, including cannabinoids. Lienna has been manufacturing APIs for more than 40 years in its GMP-certified facility in Ticino, Switzerland. It sells to more than 70 countries and serves more than 300 businesses annually. 

    Courtesy photo

    Caspar, who holds a degree in biology and advanced studies in business management and health care, previously led various pharmaceutical companies before she joined Linnea in 2020. Under her leadership, cannabinoid products have come to the forefront. 

    “I am excited for Linnea to be contributing positively to the growth of the medical cannabis industry,” Caspar told Benzinga, adding that “Linnea’s core mission is to improve people’s quality of life.” 

    In addition to cannabinoids, the company’s portfolio of beneficial botanical active ingredients includes: Bilberry, Ginkgo Biloba, Red Clover, 5 HTP, HMR Lignan, Vinpocetine, Vincamine and Butylscopolamine.

    Does Smoking Medical Marijuana Make Sense?

    Caspar believes that smoking marijuana is not the best option when it comes to medicinal use. She explains that is because both smoking and vaping carry many potential health risks, and it is very “difficult to dose an inhaled medicine of this type accurately.”

    “Patients must ingest a significant amount to feel relief; the effects are relatively short-lived and re-administration is impossible in some environments,” Caspar said. “The bioavailability of inhaled cannabinoids, whether smoked or vaped, is highly variable. Cannabinoids have limited bioavailability when inhaled, are difficult to standardize, and degrade when exposed to the heat necessary for inhalation.”

    Caspar explains that there are many potential medical uses for different cannabinoids, which the company saw in pre-clinical and clinical studies.

    “There is currently an ongoing clinical study using our CBD ingredients for sleeplessness. We have also done pre-clinical studies showing the effectiveness of CBD on various skin conditions,” Caspar said. “For CBG there has been a clinical study on its beneficial use for glaucoma and there are studies currently planned for CBG’s use in migraines, anxiety and stress, sleep, and pain management.”

    The CEO added that THC is often indicated for pain, appetite stimulation and spasticity, as well as CBD for childhood epilepsy. She believes that medical indications for cannabinoids both individually and in combination are yet to be expanded with new clinical trials on different conditions.

    Standardization And Quality Assurance

    Linnea prides itself on standardization of its extract ingredients, for example, “CBD 5% always contains 5%, ensuring consistency and exact potency batch to batch. We practice a substantial amount of research, including long stability studies, prior to selling any cannabinoid ingredients in the market to ensure high quality and reliability,” Caspar added.

    The company started developing cannabinoid APIs in 2014. Two years later it became one of the first companies in the world to receive a GMP certificate. In 2017, it started producing CBD ingredients and in 2014 CBG ingredients. At the end of 2022, Linnea obtained a narcotics license allowing it to produce high-THC ingredients.

    “In the beginning of 2024 we expect to be releasing combination products blending CBD, CBG and THC in varying percentages,” Caspar said. “We will also continue to expand our cannabinoid business around the globe as more countries create favorable regulations for cannabinoid use.”

    Cannabis In Europe? Medical Should Be First

    While there has been cannabis reform across Europe in recent years with Switzerland studying regulated non-medical cannabis sales, Ukraine contemplating legalizing medical marijuana, Malta fully legalized and Germany getting close, Caspar doesn't expect widespread legalization in Europe any time soon.

    “We think legalization is currently in a premature stage,” Caspar said. “Developing the medical cannabis market needs to be the first priority in Europe as many countries still don't even have legal medical cannabis programs. As a first priority, we must first create a strong, tested, and widespread medical cannabis market for the many patients and potential patients that are without access to this type of medicine and only after this can proper legalization occur.”

    She stressed that the focus should be on developing medical before recreational marijuana markets. “As we have seen in the U.S. for example when medical markets are inadequate or underdeveloped the opening of recreational markets takes over and practically eliminates medical markets leaving patients without access to true cannabis medicine.” 

    Caspar said medical marijuana markets need reliable and diversified manufacturing companies with the ability to stay in business for the long term.

    Feature Photo: Courtesy of Elsa Olofsson on Unsplash


  • Fintech

    Nov 13, 2023 Benzinga Fintech Awards 2023 Winners: Meet The Innovators Changing Finance

    In a high-energy Monday night affair in New York City, Benzingathe leading financial media company for next-generation investors, announced the winners of its prestigious Global Fintech Awards for 2023 during its 9th annual Fintech Deal Day & Awards. This seminal event in the financial technology sector celebrated the brightest minds in fintech and their groundbreaking contributions across a spectrum of categories, from cryptocurrency to trading technologies and financial literacy.

    Awarded by a panel of expert judges, the Benzinga Global Fintech Awards recognized companies that are not just participating in the fintech evolution but are actively driving it. This year's awards spanned a diverse range of fields, including cryptocurrency, brokerage services, investment platforms and educational tools, showcasing an array of novel investment strategies, advanced financial technologies and initiatives enhancing financial education and accessibility.

    Below is a full list of the pioneering entities and individuals that stood out in the 2023 Benzinga Global Fintech Awards, setting new benchmarks in the expansive world of finance and technology, and taking home this coveted award.

    2023 Benzinga Global Fintech Award Winners

    • 2023 Crypto Changemaker of the Year: Justin Sun, Tron
    • Best AI Research Platform: Quasar Markets
    • Best Alternative Investments Platform: Nada
    • Best API Solution: Alpaca
    • Best Automated Trading Software: TrendSpider
    • Best Broker for Sophisticated Traders: Centerpoint Securities
    • Best Brokerage App: Tradestation
    • Best Brokerage for Beginners: Plynk
    • Best Brokerage for Day Trading: TradeUp Securities
    • Best Brokerage for Forex in the US: FXCM
    • Best Brokerage for Forex Outside of the US: Tickmill
    • Best Brokerage for Options Trading: tastytrade
    • Best Brokerage for Short Selling: TradeZero
    • Best Brokerage for Trading Futures: NinjaTrader
    • Best Canadian Brokerage: TD Bank
    • Best Crypto Exchange: Coinbase
    • Best Data Analysis Tool: PitchBook
    • Best Day Trading Software: moomoo
    • Best ETF Launch: AXS 2X Innovation ETF (NASDAQ:TARK)
    • Best Financial Literacy Tool: MoneyLion
    • Best Financial Planning Software: RocketMoney
    • Best Financial Research Company: Danelfin
    • Best Insurtech Company: Mylo
    • Best Investment Research Tech: EquitySet
    • Best Lending Solution: Best Egg
    • Best Leveraged Product: MAX ETN
    • Best NeoBank: CashApp
    • Best New Product: Merrill Advisor Match
    • Best Order Flow Analytics: Big Short, Inc
    • Best Paper Trading Platform: Interactive Brokers
    • Best Payments Solution: Worldpay USDC settlement
    • Best Portfolio Tracker: Delta
    • Best RegTech: Trillium
    • Best Robo-Advisor: Titan
    • Best Social Investing Platform: Public
    • Best Software for Longterm Cryptocurrency Investments: eToro
    • Best Software for Swing Trading: WealthCharts
    • Best Software for Trading Cryptocurrency: DXtrade Crypto
    • Best Startup Investing Platform: StartEngine
    • Best Trading Technology: eTrade
    • Best VC: Social Leverage
    • Best Vision for Crypto 2.0: Unicoin
    • Best AI for the Creator Economy: rad.Ai 
    • Breaking Barriers: Arrived
    • Best Software for Trading Futures: Optimus Futures
    • Capital Markets Disruptor of the Year: Cboe
    • Developing Best-in-Class Education to Make Futures Accessible to All Traders: NinjaTrader
    • Educational Excellence Award: OCC / The Options Industry Council
    • Institutional Innovation: FalconX
    • Most Impactful Fintech Executive: Bill Capuzzi, Apex Fintech Solutions
    • Most Innovative in Capital Markets: BMO Leveraged Products
    • Powering Market Access & Opportunity for Traders: Apex Trader Funding
  • Cannabis

    Dec 07, 2023 Joe Exotic's Legal Twist: Tiger King's New Explosive Claims Against US Government, 'No One Cares About The Truth'

    Joe Exotic, the flamboyant former zookeeper and star of Netflix’s “Tiger King,” is continuing his legal battle from behind bars in federal prison, alleging that serious misconduct and conspiracy led to his wrongful conviction. Exotic, serving a 21-year sentence for murder-for-hire and animal abuse charges claims in recent motions filed by his legal team that he was the victim of a coordinated effort to ensure his conviction.

    In 2020, Exotic (Joseph Maldonado-Passage) was found guilty on multiple counts, including two counts of murder-for-hire and 17 federal charges of animal abuse. The verdict, reached after extensive deliberations, was a pivotal moment in a case that had captured the nation's attention. This conviction was seen as a significant legal outcome in the battle against wildlife crimes and marked a turning point in Exotic's life, shifting him from a colorful personality to a convicted felon.

    In a conversation with Benzinga Cannabis, Exotic stated, “This former secret service agent is going to the White House to... hand over... the evidence [to support the case that] I’m innocent and the proof the U.S. attorneys knew their witnesses were lying.” He insists on his innocence, emphasizing a conspiracy involving federal agents and key witnesses.

    Motions filed allege that individuals such as Alan Glover, James Garretson, Jeff Lowe and Lauren Lowe conspired with federal investigators, engaging in evidence tampering and witness intimidation. Exotic’s defense also highlights undisclosed relationships between Carole Baskin and government witnesses, an accusation Baskin has consistently denied.

    See also: 'Tiger King' Joe Exotic's Last Interview Before Solitary Confinement In Prison: 'Our System Is So Corrupt'

    Despite these claims, Exotic’s conviction was upheld. Prosecutors and the jury found substantial evidence supporting the 17 federal charges of animal abuse and the two counts of attempted murder for hire.

    Exotic’s case has garnered immense media attention, partly fueled by the success of “Tiger King.” This media influence is a critical aspect of Exotic’s defense, suggesting it may have impacted the judicial process and public opinion. However, the tangible impact of this media attention on the legal proceedings is difficult to quantify.

    Speaking on his health struggles, Exotic, whose prostate cancer is currently in remission, is also battling common variable immunodeficiency (CVID), which affects his immune system. This has added a layer of urgency to his fight for a new trial.

    Exotic remains adamant about his innocence and the alleged injustices in his case, saying, “The DOJ is ignoring this evidence. Seems no one cares about the truth... Everything is on joeexoticusa.com/evidence... It’s all there to be exposed finally 'cause it’s all coming out in Denver at my appeal.”

    As the legal saga continues, the balance between Exotic’s allegations and the judicial evidence leading to his conviction remains a contentious point. The outcome of his appeal, amidst these complex claims of conspiracy and misconduct, will be pivotal in this high-profile case, underscoring the ongoing debate over the intersections of celebrity, justice and media in the American legal system.

    Cover image: @Plastiboy.Inc

  • Earnings

    Dec 07, 2023 GameStop Shares Tumble In Premarket As Investors React To Q3 Earnings

    In Thursday’s premarket session, GME shares experienced a sharp drop following the video game retailer’s earnings report, which revealed Q3 revenue falling short of analyst forecasts.

    GameStop Q3 Results Didn’t Please Investors

    Under the new leadership of CEO Ryan Cohen, GameStop faces ongoing challenges as customers shift towards downloading games online. The company now contends with a market where many gamers opt for free downloads from app stores. Cohen has previously cautioned employees about the necessity of reducing expenses for the business’s survival.

    GameStop’s board has also approved a new investment policy, allowing it to use its cash to buy stocks and make other investments.

    As the results came out post-market on Wednesday, news around it sent the stock plummeting over 8% in premarket trading.

    More on the results here: GameStop Q3 Earnings Highlights: Revenue Beat, EPS Beat, Losses Continue To Improve Each Quarter.

    In the days leading up to the announcement of the results, GameStop’s stock saw an increase. A fraction of the value from its peak in January 2021, when it was a popular meme stock, still remains.

    GME Stock Technical Trends – Bearish

    The technicals also indicate a bearish trend for GameStop’s stock. The 100-day SMA recently crossed below the 200-day SMA, indicating a bearish sentiment among traders.

    The RSI in the previous chart also shows GME stock flirting with the 70 level, indicating it is on the verge of being overbought. An overbought security indicates a stock is trading above its intrinsic value, and hence a pullback may occur from its price trend.

    Read Next: Sprinklr Reports Downbeat Earnings, Joins Chewy, GameStop And Other Big Stocks Moving Lower In Thursday’s Pre-Market Session

    Photo: Shutterstock

  • Cannabis

    Dec 06, 2023 Stardust: The New Robot That 'Glazes' Cannabis Pre-Rolls For Premium Appeal And Profit

    Pre-rolls are a major driver of growth in the cannabis market, with companies increasingly focusing on premium offerings. They present a wide array of configurations, enabling brands to either target specific niches tightly or expand their reach to a broader consumer base.

    In a revealing interview with Benzinga, Nohtal Partansky, co-founder and CEO of Sorting Robotics, introduced Stardust, their latest robot designed to coat joints and diversify the pre-roll segment in the cannabis industry.


    Follow The Market

    Partansky emphasized that while their Jiko robot efficiently infused pre-rolls internally, there was a growing demand for an automated solution for external kief coating, in line with evolving consumer preferences.

    In 2019, when the pre-roll wave was taking off, the market primarily focused on interior infusion for potency. However, certain trailblazer cannabis brands are shifting consumer dynamics, underscoring the significance of exterior infusion.


    This approach not only enhances THC percentage but also adds cosmetic appeal. Partansky compared coated pre-rolls to a glazed donut with sprinkles, highlighting the importance of aesthetics in addition to potency.

    "Brands are seeking exterior infusion, mainly for the cosmetic appeal, akin to a glazed donut with sprinkles. The sprinkles may not add much, but they look cool and offer a unique mouthfeel, which I relate to. This mindset, especially prevalent over the past few years as we marketed Jiko, positioned it as an alternative for exterior infusion,” He said.

    “However, earlier this year, I noticed customers were both injecting and applying kief, signaling a clear market shift towards both processes. So, we decided to develop a solution that caters to both needs."

    Working With Sicky-Icky Can Be Messy

    The development of Stardust presented unique engineering challenges. Sorting Robotics had to consider the intricate requirements of exterior kief coating for pre-rolls, involving complex and messy processes.

    In terms of how Stardust operates, Partansky explained that the process begins with placing joints, blunts, or other pre-roll types into small holders called pods.

    These pods are then loaded into the machine. A robotic arm within the machine can pick up eight pods at a time, allowing for efficient processing, resulting in approximately 16 joints coated per minute. However, plans include scaling up to 12 pods at a time, increasing the production rate to about 24 joints per minute.


    The machine comprises several key stations, including a spraying station and a dipping station.

    In the spraying station, the joints are individually sprayed 360 degrees with either distillate or cigar glue, creating a thin but tacky layer. Finding the right type of nozzle and achieving the right spray characteristics, including temperature, viscosity and pressure, was a complex endeavor.

    Subsequently, the joints move to the dipping station, where they are coated with kief, crushed diamonds, bubble hash, or powdered cannabis material.

    Save Costs In Cannabis Manufacturing

    Partansky emphasized that this automated process minimizes common issues associated with manual kief coatings, such as overspray, uneven application and messiness.

    The machine operates in a controlled environment, preventing loss of materials. The result is a streamlined and efficient process that eliminates the need for 5 to 10 manual laborers and reduces the entire operation to a single operator.

    Avoid Bottlenecks

    The Stardust addresses a common bottleneck in the industry and allows for further growth and profitability. On average, businesses using the machine could save at least $10,000 per month. This figure was based on the labor and product cost reductions achieved through automation.

    The machine's speed, offers a significant increase in efficiency compared to manual processes, potentially saving tens of thousands of dollars monthly for businesses, depending on their scale of production.

    Key Innovations: The Kief Tornado

    The most common issue in mass-producing coated joints is achieving a consistent glaze.

    Often, coatings like kief, diamonds or bubble hash on these joints are applied unevenly, resembling a crumbly apple crumble, leading to sharp or loose edges that cause the material to fall off.

    To address this, Sorting Robotics developed a 'kief tornado' technique, ensuring each particle is meticulously aligned, with no overlaps.


    This process involves millions of dried trichomes — tiny crystal-like glands on the plant's surface, rich in terpenes and therapeutic benefits, evenly distributed over the joint's surface using high-velocity wind.

    Upon close inspection, the trichomes appear neatly parked next to each other, resulting in a smooth, even kief distribution that gives the joint a frosted appearance.

    Partansky explained that when the joints are pulled through the "kief tornado" in the dipping station, the process is akin to a lollipop passing through a dust storm.

    “If you have a lollipop and you go into a dust storm at the end of the dust storm, that lollipop is going to have an even coat of dust all over the lollipop,” Partansky explained.

    Does The Stardust Has A Moon Rock Mode?

    Stardust's moon rock mode, allows the machine to apply layers of keif, THC-crushed diamonds, or other materials to create intricate patterns and designs on the coated joints.

    Partansky highlighted the versatility of this feature, comparing it to creating works of art and offering a myriad of possibilities for enhancing product aesthetics.

    He also mentioned that Stardust's ability to efficiently and consistently produce moon rocks or other coated products at scale could open up new opportunities for businesses to add value to their offerings.

    "We create a mist of distillate or adhesive, then spin the joint in it for a precise duration, allowing it to attach evenly. The length of time in the mist can be extended for a thicker layer, as we did when experimenting with moon rocks,” Partansky explained.

    “For these, we left the bud in the distillate longer, then in the kief, repeating the process to build layers. Essentially, the machine passes the cannabis bud through a distillate cloud, making it sticky, followed by a 'dust storm' of kief. This results in an evenly layered coating of both kief and distillate on the bud." 

    A Layered Cake

    "For the moon rock mode, you load the buds into what we call 'pods,' but these pods use a small fork-like device instead of holding the bud directly. This fork grips the bud, ensuring it's held firmly. The process then involves spinning the bud to achieve even coverage, layering distillate, and kief repeatedly to the desired thickness,” Partansky concluded.

    “What's exciting is the system's versatility; it allows for varied layering. For example, you can create layers of moon rocks with multiple layers of kief, followed by layers of THC-crushed diamonds. This technique can make the final product resemble a layered cake when cut open."


    All Photos: Courtesy of Sorting Robotics.  

  • News

    Dec 06, 2023 'The Time To Own Gold Is Now': Greg Weldon Sees Breakout For Bullion

    Gold shares an inverse dynamic with the dollar. When the dollar goes up, gold moves lower — and vice versa. In recent days, however, this dynamic has become stressed.

    When the dollar moves lower, gold — which is denominated in the U.S. currency — has traditionally rallied as it becomes cheaper for non-U.S. investors to buy the precious metal in alternative currencies.

    In early October, when the dollar index (DXY) hit an 11-month peak of 107, gold was languishing at $1,850 an ounce. By the end of November, the DXY had fallen 4.5% to 102 and gold had rallied 10% to $2,050. Tracking this movement in gold were exchange traded funds such as the SPDR Gold Trust (NYSE:GLD).

    Low Trading Volumes

    “Gold has had fits and starts all year because the dollar comes off and then it rallies again,” said Greg Weldon, CEO of Weldon Financial. “So people have become disappointed and left the gold market.”

    Weldon explained that open interest in the gold futures market — that’s the total of all long and short positions, a measure of trading volume — has been very low since the recent push to $2,000. On Nov. 22, open interest fell to 154,000.

    Then on Monday, something seemingly extraordinary — but not uncommon in low volumes of trade — happened to the price of gold. It opened at $2,075, then jumped 2.7% to a record high of $2,130, before crashing back down 5% to close at $2,024.

    Also Read: Gold’s Record High: Why Haven’t Gold Miners Followed Suit?

    This was one of gold’s other key risk facets at work — geopolitics. When the world seems an unsafe place, there’s safety in gold. It is one of the most popular haven assets for investors to store their cash in times of turmoil.

    The timing of gold’s rally on that day coincided with a Houthi drone attack on several ships in the Red Sea. The drone was later shot down by a U.S. warship, leaving investors to focus on a renewed rally for the dollar. The gold price slumped.

    “This market’s wiped clean I think — people are not involved, they’ve liquidated ETFs, we have a monetary situation where the narrative has shifted, geopolitical risk… You have a lot of things going on here with China pulling the puppet strings,” said Weldon.

    “And I think the time to own gold is now, because if you get above $2,060 this thing could take off.”

    Dollar Dynamic To Fuel Gold Rally

    He explained that the narrative behind gold’s dollar dynamic will return as he expects the dollar to move lower again, despite a rally over the past week.

    “Everyone wants gold to break out because of what we have in the background, but what you need is that dynamic with the dollar depreciating.

    “I think we’ll see that because the Fed’s having to acquiesce to higher inflation — we have a 40-year downtrend in interest rates and inflation that has reversed, and there are a lot of factors that now suggest a longer-term secular shift to higher highs and higher lows in inflation.”

    Another Correlation: Real Interest Rates

    Similar to gold’s inverse relationship with the dollar, it shares a negative correlation with the real interest rate — which can be approximated using the inflation-adjusted 10-year Treasury yield.

    This correlation suggested that inflation is a friend to gold, while higher interest rates are not.

    TradingView explains: “Rising interest rates also mean rising opportunity costs of holding gold. Gold neither pays dividends nor interest. Thus, it is relatively expensive to hold it in the portfolio when real interest rates are high.

    “On the other hand, when real yields are negative, holders of cash and bonds are losing wealth. In such a scenario, they are more prone to buy gold.”

    Now Read: Gold Down Over 2%; US Factory Orders Fall In October

    Photo: Shutterstock

  • Fintech

    Dec 05, 2023 EXCLUSIVE: Fintech Leaders Emphasize Responsible AI Use, Its Transformative Potential

    Speaking at Benzinga’s Fintech Deal Day event in New York in November, panelists discussed data-driven decision-making and risk management in FinTech.

    André Beganski, a journalist at Decrypt Media, moderated the discussion, which featured panelists Antonio Goncalves from Devexperts and dxFeed, Paul Fahey of Northern Trust Asset Servicing, and Traci Mabrey from Dow Jones.

    Fahey emphasized that the field of artificial intelligence (AI) is still in its nascent stages, noting that “there are tremendous upsides for AI but if I take it back to what we're seeing today – I think it's early stages from an investment standpoint.”

    He added that Northern Trust Asset Servicing is looking at where the firm can use AI for internal efficiencies and asking what that looks like from an investment standpoint for both asset managers and asset owners.

    Goncalves discussed the capability of experts to gather a wide array of data, such as corporate actions or reference data, and integrate it in real-time with simulations. This process leads to the creation of decision-making tools tailored to specific needs, like automated portfolio management. He added, “it's possible to create a completely artificial intelligence data feed.”

    He further cautioned that the wealth management sector is among those most likely to be impacted, as the existing technology has the potential to entirely replace registered advisors (RAs). His firm, DevExpress, offers a solution capable of fully automating portfolio management and rebalancing, as well as enabling users to create their own indices.

    Mabrey added to the conversation, noting the significance of harnessing new technology effectively and advocating for its optimal use. She pointed out the challenges posed by the prevalence of fake news and misinformation in recent years, stating, “We're talking about video validation, we're talking about media literacy… there's a lot of different ways to give improper or incorrect information.”

    She stressed that information “quickly becomes super gospel that people are making not only incorrect business decisions, they can be making things that are very difficult to come back from.” Mabrey said there is an immense responsibility to come together and talk about what it is that we should be doing with AI.

    Read also: One Of The Hottest Wall Street Trends In 2023 Has Been AI – Trust Stamp Is Leveraging AI To Ensure Security In The New Reality

    Photo: Piboon Thongtanyong

  • Fintech

    Dec 06, 2023 EXCLUSIVE: Fintech Experts Tackle Market Risks, Emerging Trends At Benzinga New York Event

    In a compelling panel discussion at Benzinga’s Fintech Deal Day event held in New York this November, industry experts gathered to delve into the complexities of managing market volatility and strategizing effective risk management.

    The panel, moderated by Renato Leonard Capelj from Benzinga, featured insights from Michael Green of Simplify Asset Management, Kris Sidial of The Ambrus Group, and Kaitlin Meyer of MIAX. They explored a range of topics, from the shifting trends in fixed allocation frameworks to the burgeoning influence of new trading platforms and products, such as 0DTE options, highlighting the evolving landscape of the financial market in 2023.

    Green initiated the conversation by pointing out the rising trend of fixed allocation frameworks in the market. He added a cautionary note, stating that such rigid frameworks could be problematic as they often fail to address a crucial question: which is more attractive, bonds or equities?

    He elaborated that the trading patterns observed in 2022 were largely marked by a sell-off in the bond market. Comparatively, products like the Vanguard Total Stock Market Index Fund ETF (NYSE:VTI) and the Vanguard Total Bond Market Index Fund Admiral Shares have experienced more lateral movements over the years. Green further noted that the current market scenario is somewhat unique, with a noticeable rise in the supply of bonds.

    Meyer highlighted that the introduction of new products in the market is largely driven by demand, underscoring how market accessibility has significantly increased. “A lot of that can be attributed to access and [if] you think our markets have never been so accessible … Robinhood has 23 million clients, and so they are looking for opportunities,” she added.

    She went on to discuss how the demand for new products is fueled by people seeking opportunities and flexibility. She pointed out the emergence of a new generation in the market, stating, “that wants instant gratification, so they want the exposure to the markets, you know, there's a push to 24/7 trading.”

    Shifting the focus to 0DTE options (Zero Days To Expiration), contracts that expire at the end of the trading day, Sidial pointed out potential issues with how market participants are increasingly using these options. He observed that there is more volatility selling now than ever before.

    He added that in today's options market, it's quite apparent that most strategies are being utilized for generating passive income, a trend Sidial sees as potentially hazardous on its own.
    “It is very well known there is risk and there is a lot of volatility in the market,” adds Sidial.

    Meyer, meanwhile, added that the demand for various products is clearly reflected in the data, evident in both the options and 0DTE markets, as well as in the futures sector. “I think there's no limited demand for new products.”

    Read also: Anxious About Volatility? Here's How To Stay Grounded

    Photo: Pratya Jankong

  • Cryptocurrency

    Dec 05, 2023 US Stocks Falter, Bonds, Dollar Gain, While Bitcoin Soars Past $43,000 On Rising Institutional Interest: What's Driving Markets Tuesday?

    The momentum on Wall Street during Tuesday’s session continues to lack strength as investors carefully scrutinize the most recent economic data. Moody’s decision to lower China’s credit rating outlook from stable to negative also weighed on risk propensity.

    While service activity showed a better-than-expected uptick in November, October’s job openings fell substantially, marking notable underperformance compared to earlier predictions.

    The dollar is trending higher, up 0.3%. U.S. Treasuries also soared, with the popular iShares 20+ Year Treasury Bond ETF (NASDAQ:TLT) rallying 2%.

    Gold and silver fell further, down 0.5% and 1.5% respectively, weighed on by a stronger greenback.

    Equities experienced declines, with the exception of the technology and discretionary sectors, which remained resilient.

    Bitcoin (CRYPTO: BTC) made a strong move, surging 3.7% to exceed the $43,000 mark, driven by escalating rumors suggesting that Qatar’s sovereign wealth fund is considering a substantial investment of up to half a trillion dollars in Bitcoin.

    Tuesday’s US Stock Index Performance

    IndexPerformance (+/-)Value
    Nasdaq 100-0.01%15,842.04
    S&P 500 Index-0.15%4,562.59
    Dow Industrials-0.33%36,094.28
    Russell 2000+1.25%1,862.87
    • The SPDR S&P 500 ETF Trust (ARCA: SPY) edged 0.1% lower to $456.14.
    • The SPDR Dow Jones Industrial Average ETF (NYSE:DIA) eased 0.3% to $361.51. 
    • The Invesco QQQ Trust (NASDAQ: QQQ) held flat at $386.33.
    • The iShares Russell 2000 ETF (NYSE:IWM) fell 1.3% to $184.45, according to Benzinga Pro data.

    Chart Of The Day: Bitcoin Reaches 19-Month High

    Sector, Industry ETF Performance

    The Technology Select Sector SPDR Fund (NYSE:XLK) and the Consumer Discretionary Select Sector SPDR Fund (NYSE:XLY) managed to post minor gains.

    All other S&P 500 sectors traded in the red, with the the Materials Select Sector SPDR Fund (NYSE:XLB) and the Energy Select Sector SPDR Fund (NYSE:XLE) suffering the largest declines, down 1.3% and 1.2%, respectively.

    Looking at specific industries, retail stocks, as tracked by the SPDR Retail ETF (NYSE:XRT) fell by 2.5%, followed by SPDR Metals & Mining ETF (ARCA: XME, down 2%.

    Stocks In Focus

    • Gamestop Corp. (NYSE:GME) tumbled by more than 10%, offsetting Monday’s 11% rally.
    • GitLab Inc. (NASDAQ:GTLB) rose nearly 13%, after reporting better-than-forecasted quarterly results.
    • Robinhood Markets, Inc. (NASDAQ:HOOD) rose 7% after Cathie Wood included the stock in her ARKK FIntech Innovation ETF (NYSE:ARKF).
    • Albemarle Corp. (NYSE:ALB) fell over 6%.

    Read now: Brokerage Industry’s 2024 Outlook: Bank of America’s 5 Top Stock Picks Revealed

    Photo via Shutterstock.

  • Cannabis

    Dec 05, 2023 Marijuana C-Suite Chronicles: Sabrina Wheeler & Lex Corwin On Elevating Stone Road Farms Across Multiple States

    In the realm of natural gifts to humanity, marijuana stands outSabrina Naomi Wheeler, chief operating officer of Stone Road Farms, passionately advocates for universal access to it in its finest forms. “Cannabis is one of the planet’s great natural gifts to humans, and all people should have access to the best of it,” she said.

    In an exclusive interview with Benzinga, Wheeler and Lex Corwin, the visionary CEO and founder of Stone Road, provided insights into their venture's evolution as a vertically integrated, multi-state cannabis brand.


    Roots In Passion And Innovation

    Established in 2016 by Lex Corwin, Stone Road Farms represents a familial endeavor that redefines affordable cannabis for a new generation. As a queer visionary, Corwin founded the brand at the age of 23, driven by a desire to establish a nature-centric and community-connected identity.

    Wheeler, hailing from Honolulu, brings a wealth of experience to the table. Her trajectory, from beginning college at 16 to launching a tech venture by 20, underscores a determination to forge an unconventional path. Joining the cannabis industry just two weeks after recreational legalization in California, Wheeler's journey evolved from a budtender to her current role.

    Ensuring Consistency Across Diverse Markets

    Stone Road's expansion across multiple states posed the challenge of upholding brand and quality consistency. Wheeler underscores the significance of Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) and a robust network to ensure uniformity from plant cultivation to retail presentation.

    “The competitive nature of the market underscores the importance of preserving our brand integrity. We recognize that one negative consumer experience could jeopardize their support forever so we have numerous safeguards in place to make sure all flower that becomes Stone Road product is fresh, potent, and all-natural - always!”

    See Also: Risk, Insurance And SOPs: Benzinga Conference Experts On Safeguarding Your Cannabis Business

    Strategic Flexibility In Product Development

    The success of Stone Road lies in its hyper-flexibility, strategically adapting products to meet diverse regional demands. Sabrina notes that pivoting quickly on product types and formulations allows them to assess different markets and identify underserved SKUs.

    This strategic approach, exemplified by the introduction of a 10-pack of .5g prerolls for Massachusetts, showcases the brand's responsiveness to the evolving cannabis landscape.


    “Drawing from our industry insights, we recognize that the top 20% of heavy cannabis consumers contribute to about 80% of all retail sales. Hence, introducing more significant, value-oriented SKUs proves more enticing to this demographic group. In the case of New Mexico, we saw most companies were only producing a 0.5-gram concentrate so we decided to introduce our 1-gram concentrates,” Wheeler explained.

    Building A Canna Community For Organic Growth

    Stone Road's distinguishing factor is its emphasis on community building. Wheeler believes that “leading with genuine care, kindness, and authenticity resonates on a profound level.” This commitment contributes significantly to the organic growth of the Stone Road brand, whether engaging with retail decision-makers or micro-influencers.

    From Budtender To COO: Sabrina's Inspirational Journey

    Wheeler's journey from budtender to COO is inspiring. Leveraging diverse experience across the cannabis supply chain, she spearheaded Stone Road's expansion.

    Reflecting on her trajectory, Wheeler shared, “Upon relocating from Massachusetts to California with the advent of legalization, I anticipated starting at an entry-level position. I strategically aligned myself with a dispensary in California that prioritized cannabis education, offering an extensive training program. Embracing this opportunity, I immersed myself in expanding my knowledge of the plant first.”

    In just four months, Wheeler transitioned to a sales trainer role, creating a comprehensive dispensary sales guide that "empowered budtenders to enhance customer interactions, master upselling, and elevate overall customer service experience.”


    “My firm belief is that if you have a goal, a vision, and a plan that will significantly enhance a brand’s value, stay true to it. Keep pitching your plan, and eventually, you will align with a company that believes in your talents,” she added.

    See Also: Success Stories Of Minorities In Cannabis C-Suite: 'The Future Of Cannabis Is Female'
    Lex Corwin On Working With Sabrina And Stone Road's Strategy

    Lex Corwin commends Wheeler's industry insights and pragmatic view, describing her as a natural-born detective.

    “Sabrina has a well-informed and pragmatic view of the industry. Considering she's worked in almost all areas of the supply chain she deeply understands the consumer and the retail buyer. These insights are priceless when facing major decisions like new product launches, SKU selection for out-of-state partners and general pricing analysis. Plus, she's a whiz with retail and trade marketing, even on a tight budget!" Corwin told Benzinga.

    A Vision For The Future

    As the Stone Road brand thrives in multiple states, this team of two envisions a future where cannabis is accessible to everyone. Their commitment to quality, community and strategic innovation positions Stone Road Farms at the forefront of the evolving cannabis industry.

    In Corwin's words, “We're on first base. Don't make decisions you might come to regret. Even if a late-stage change order will add cost and/or delay your launch, do it if it will ultimately lead to a higher chance of future success.”


    Corwin's tips for brands expanding out of their home market include being well-capitalized, diligent in vetting partners and avoiding shortcuts in the enduring cannabis market landscape.

    Stay tuned for more articles delving into the success stories of minorities in C-Suite roles within the cannabis industry.

    Read Next: Native American-Owned Hemp Company Canndigenous Launches First THC Lineup Available Nationwide

    All photos courtesy of Stone Road Farms

  • News

    Dec 05, 2023 EXCLUSIVE: Ocean Biomedical Tells Benzinga Co. Announces Publication Of Breast Cancer Research Uncovering A New Tumor Suppression Pathway For Its Proprietary Anti-Chi3L1 Antibody
  • Biotech

    Dec 05, 2023 EXCLUSIVE: Ocean Biomedical Announces Publication of Breast Cancer Research On New Tumor Suppression Pathway for Proprietary Antibody

    Ocean Biomedical (NASDAQ:OCEA) announced that its Scientific Co-founder, Jack Elias, co-authored new findings in the peer-reviewed journal Immunity that detail the mechanisms behind the role of chitinase 3-like-1 (CHI3L1) in the growth of triple-negative breast cancer. 

    The research demonstrates that CHI3L1 stimulates neutrophil elaboration of NETs, which block T cells from contacting and killing the breast cancer tumor. 

    Additionally, the study provides further evidence of the potential impact of Ocean's anti-Chi3L1 antibody in reversing this process and suppressing breast cancer tumor growth.

    Also Read: EXCLUSIVE: Ocean Biomedical's JV Partner Virion Therapeutics Dosed First Patients In Novel Immunotherapy Study For Chronic Hepatitis B.

    The paper reveals for the first time another complex pathway by which CHI3L1 inhibits the immune response to cancer, this time by inducing neutrophil recruitment and NETosis, which blocks T-cell infiltration. 

    The paper also provides another preclinical demonstration of the effectiveness of Ocean's Anti-CHI3L1 antibody in reducing tumor growth by targeting CHI3L1 and reversing the T-cell blockade. 

    This tumor control pathway, the paper asserts, is likely at work in a range of cancers beyond breast cancer, and "targeting CHI3L1 may promote anti-tumor immunity in various tumor types." 

    Prior research has established that elevated Chi3L1 levels are associated with many cancers, including glioblastoma, and may be targeted therapeutically. 

    Recent studies from Ocean Biomedical have demonstrated that CHI3L1 is a critical regulator of several key cancer-causing pathways, highlighting its ability to inhibit tumor cell death (apoptosis), its inhibition of the expression of the tumor suppressors P53, PTEN, retinoblastoma 1, and Keap1 and its stimulation of the B-RAF protooncogene.

    Price Action: OCEA shares closed at $0.82 on Monday.

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