Bloomberg - Evening Briefing - Balloon tension

Bloomberg Evening Briefing

China escalated tensions over the shooting down of an alleged spy balloon, imposing fines and sanctions on two US defense companies. Lockheed Martin and a subsidiary of Raytheon were added to a list of “unreliable entities” for selling weapons to Taiwan, China’s Ministry of Commerce said Thursday. Later in the day, US President Joe Biden sought to both ease American concerns about a spate of aerial objects (including the balloon) that have appeared over the US in recent weeks and clear the air with Beijing. He said he intends to speak with Chinese leader Xi Jinping about the entire matter. 

Here are today’s top stories

The biggest holding in the world’s biggest high-yield municipal bond fund isn’t a municipal bond. Instead it’s a $1.5 billion stake in shares of a thinly-traded power company that’s not even listed on a US stock exchange. 

The Securities and Exchange Commission is preparing to sue the company behind TerraUSD, a crypto stablecoin whose collapse last year kicked off an industrywide crisis and a cascade of high-profile bankruptcies.

Bank of America is planning to terminate some employees at its investment bank, joining the growing club of financial industry giants who have been firing employees in recent months.

Tesla fired dozens of employees Wednesday at its plant in Buffalo, New York, one day after Autopilot workers there announced a union campaign, organizers said in a complaint. The union accused Tesla of illegally terminating employees “in retaliation for union activity and to discourage union activity.” There was more bad news for Elon Musk’s car company: it’s recalling hundreds of thousands of vehicles because US authorities said that automated-driving technology could increase the risk of a crash. Autopilot has been under scrutiny from Washington for some time, and this latest development raises even more questions about a system Musk sees as critical to the company’s long-term prospects.  

A Tesla is pulled from a pond near the city of San Ramon, California, following a deadly crash in 2018.  Photographer: Bob Rendell/NBC Bay Area/KNTV

It’s 2027 and London’s black market for old smartphones is thriving. Secondhand cars are selling fast. Internet blackouts are common and inflation is surging. According to a recent UK wargame scenario, this is what may await if China attacks Taiwan and blockades production at TSMC, maker of 92% of the world’s most advanced chips. Welcome to the semiconductor crisis.

Russia launched a new cruise missile barrage Thursday against critical infrastructure facilities across Ukraine. Some three dozen missiles were launched from the air and sea; many were intercepted, Kyiv officials said. It was the first major attack in a week, but one of more than a dozen since early October. While Russia is thought to have begun its winter offensive, making small advances along the eastern front, some analysts say its resources in terms of armaments have been severely degraded.

Portugal will end its so-called golden visa program for wealthy foreign property buyers as it tries to address a lack of affordable housing in one of Western Europe’s poorest economies. Chinese nationals accounted for almost half of the residency permits sold (for a minimum of €350,000) under the program. It was also very popular with US investors.

A residential block in the Marvila district of Lisbon. Portugal had been one of Western Europe’s hottest property markets thanks in part to its “golden visa” program. Photographer: Bloomberg 

Bloomberg continues to track the global coronavirus pandemic. Click here for daily updates.

 What you’ll need to know tomorrow

Can Cities Be Saved From the Climate Crisis?

Storms, earthquakes, flooding. More extreme weather is putting pressure on aging infrastructure in big cities, where 68% of the world’s population is expected to live by 2050. On the third episode of Bloomberg’s Getting Warmer With Kal Penn, we look at how cities can adapt and why obvious solutions are often so costly—and slow. In New York City, Penn investigates both “gray” and “green” initiatives to save the Big Apple from the next big storm. 

Kal Penn, left, and Tanasia Swift, field stations program manager of New York’s Billion Oyster Project along the Brooklyn waterfront.  Photographer: Bloomberg

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