From more World Cup drama to farming in a Taiwan metro station – Here's your November 29 news briefing

To start off, we're looking into: Crypto – another one bites the dust.

From more World Cup drama to farming in a Taiwan metro station – Here's your November 29 news briefing
Representations of virtual cryptocurrencies are placed on U.S. dollar banknotes in this illustration taken November 28, 2021. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration/File Photo

To start off, we're looking into:

Crypto – another one bites the dust

The crash of FTX and Sam Bankman-Fried’s crypto empire has rippled throughout the crypto world, shaking investor confidence in the industry and hurting other major players, like Genesis and Gemini. But the hits keep on coming. BlockFi is a crypto lender that got big by marketing to smaller investors looking to engage in the crypto market. It offered crypto-backed loans with no credit checks and high-interest accounts that used crypto deposits.

But, on Monday, BlockFi became the latest lender to go under when it filed for bankruptcy. BlockFi had already been in trouble earlier this year after the crash of stablecoin TerraUSD and crypto hedge fund Three Arrows Capital. But guess who came to its rescue? Bankman-Fried. FTX is named in BlockFi’s bankruptcy filing as one of its top unsecured creditors, with a US$275 million loan.

Hong Kong's luxury home market slumps

A man walks on a footbridge as 45-year-old residential flats (L), the latest luxury homes (R) and a construction site are seen in the background, in West Kowloon, Hong Kong, China July 2, 2015. REUTERS/Bobby Yip/Files

Hong Kong has one of the world's most unaffordable housing markets, considering the space you get for the price. But, a housing slump, expats leaving the city, economic headwinds and interest rate hikes have brought luxury home sales down to a 15-month low.

Because of the tightening monetary policies, the city's housing market is on track to become the least affordable to buyers in 24 years. This and other headwinds leave more vacant properties, driving prices down.

On Monday, official data showed the financial hub's private home prices fell 2.4% in October, the biggest drop in four years. Goldman Sachs projects that Hong Kong's home prices will decline 30% from 2021 levels by 2025.

Iran wants the US booted from the World Cup

Source: AP Photo/Francisco Seco

There’s been so much international drama at the 2022 World Cup – many countries are criticizing human rights abuses in Qatar; clashes are happening between Middle-Eastern attendees and Israel’s press; and players from several countries have been told they can’t wear armbands in support of the LGBTQ community.  Football doesn’t even seem to be the main event making the headlines anymore.

On Sunday, the US Soccer Federation stirred up more trouble. On its social media platforms, it (briefly) changed Iran’s flag in support of the country’s ongoing protests by removing the emblem of the Islamic Republic. US Soccer said the image was meant to stay for 24 hours, but it’s already been replaced with the current flag. So now, Iran wants the US team booted from the Cup, and it’s threatening legal action, too. The two countries play each other on Tuesday.

To end, we'll look into:

Taiwan’s underground metro farm

Source: Taiwan News/Taipei Metro Photo

The future of agriculture may look a little different from what you first imagined. While humans do rely mostly on big farms and ranches to cover our food needs, there are other options. We're talking about vertical farming.

If you're not familiar with vertical farming, it's a way of growing food inside of vertical indoor spaces, like tall buildings. Vertical farms usually work with what's known as a hydroponic system, which uses artificial lighting and water instead of sunlight and soil to help the plants grow inside. With this kind of production, all kinds of foods can be grown no matter the season. It also helps save a lot of space to increase crop output in smaller areas.

Food can even be grown in super urban, densely crowded areas using this method. As the world's population grows and food becomes less available to everyone, vertical farming could be a major part of getting us the nutrition we need.

Now, Taiwan has found an interesting place to kick off its own vertical farming project – a metro station that's totally underground. Located in Taipei, Nanjing Fuxing station's "Metro Fresh" farm has been growing veggies since it was introduced last month. The plants are grown using state-of-the-art technology that creates humidity control, temperature management and a generally healthy, nutrient-rich environment.

Source: Taiwan News/Taipei Metro Photo

Because this farm uses a hydroponic system and is indoors, there's no real risk of bugs getting into the plants. So, Metro Farm doesn't need to use any pesticides or herbicides. "One thing that most people are worried about is the unavoidable use of pesticides in traditional land-based farming," explained Julia Yang, an exec of Unimicron Technology, the company that created the farm.

Mostly, lettuce is grown here. But where does it end up? Well, it's all for sale in a higher level of this metro station, so commuters can see the lettuce being grown and then go upstairs to buy it. Plus, Metro Farm is a great educational opportunity for kids, who can take tours to learn about all the science involved.

In other news ...

📉Stocks: MSCI’s global gauge of stocks is down 1.3% at 2668.44 at the time of writing.

📰Some specifics:

  • Dow Jones is down 1.45% to 33,849.66.
  • Nasdaq Composite slumped 1.58% to 11,049.50.
  • S&P 500 dipped 1.54% to 3,963.94.
  • Hang Seng Index fell 1.57% to 17,297.94.

🧠Some quick factors to bear in mind:

  • In the US, stocks fell on Monday, with Fed officials stressing more interest rate hikes are coming and the uncertainties around China's COVID curbs.
  • The Bank of St. Louis President James Bullard said the markets are underestimating the chances of higher rates next year to curb inflation. The Bank of New York President John Williams also said the Fed has more work to do as inflation is still too high.
  • Investors will look for Fed Chair Powell's speech on Wednesday for hints of future rate hikes. And some key economic releases, including the personal consumption expenditures report, are expected to come out this week.
  • In China, stocks fell as widespread and rare protests over COVID curbs roiled investor sentiment.
  • Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index fell 1.5%. The Hang Seng (HSI) China Enterprises Index, which tracks the performance of mainland Chinese companies listed in Hong Kong, lost 1.7% at closing.

👄Some comments and chatter:

  • “There is still a heavy degree” of expectations that inflation will go away naturally, said Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis President James Bullard on Monday.
  • “We expect Powell will push back more narrowly on market bets on early rate cuts that have once again crept a bit too far into 23, emphasizing that a stronger-for-longer labor market suggests that rates will need to be higher for longer,” said Krishna Guha, vice chairman of Evercore ISI.
  • “We are looking for lower valuations, a trough in negative growth momentum and a peak in interest rates before a new bull market starts. We expect markets to transition to a ‘Hope’ phase at some point in 2023 but from a lower level,” said strategists at Goldman Sachs.

🛢Oil: Brent prices fell, and crude oil pulled back as the OPEC+ production cut talk offset supply concerns about COVID curbs in China. US crude was up 1.3% to US$77.24, and Brent fell 0.5% to US$83.19 per barrel.

👛Bitcoin: At the time of writing, Bitcoin is down 1.23% at US$16,217.40.

👮‍♀️Cartel busted in Dubai: The EU's police agency took down a "super-cartel" that controlled a third of Europe's cocaine trade, with 49 arrests in different countries. Six main suspects were found and arrested in Dubai. The police also seized 30 tons of cocaine. The bust focused mainly on cocaine coming from South America through the ports of Rotterdam and Antwerp.

😠Clashes in Kyiv: The mayor of Kyiv, Vitali Klitschko, got into an argument with President Zelenskiy over how to deal with power cuts on Sunday. Klitschko said 430 "warming centers" are helping people get through power issues caused by Russian attacks, but Zelenskiy says there have been complaints in the capital. The two had also butted heads about how Kyiv was run before the war.

😷China's COVID discord:  Protests against COVID regulations and lockdowns have grown across Hong Kong and the mainland. Officials have begun lifting some regulations, but the government is sticking with its zero-COVID stance.

📢Protests in India: More than 80 people were injured in India during protests meant to stop construction of the US$900-million Vizhinjam port by India's Adani Group. The protests have been going on for months and are escalating, with villagers saying this port will cause coastal erosion and make it difficult for local fishermen to do their work.

💬Khamenei's niece speaks out: Farideh Moradkhani, the niece of Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, made a video statement calling on the world to cut ties with Iran as protests continue all over the country. She was arrested on Wednesday, according to a tweet from her brother, and the video was shared two days later.

📩Equatorial Guinea leadership: Officially elected for his sixth term as president, Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo has now been president of Equatorial Guinea since August 1979, with a legacy of crushing dissent. He's been in power longer than anyone else in the world (except for monarchs).

🦠Name change: Remember the controversy over the name of monkeypox? Well, the WHO has decided to rename it "mpox" to avoid stigma over the virus. Even better news – cases have slowed down a ton since August.

📱iPhone shortage: The protests at China's biggest iPhone factory may cause a major shortage this year in iPhone production – around 6 million units. Foxconn produces the majority of iPhone 14 Pro and Pro Max devices, which are the most in demand this year.

💰Meta fined US$275 million: Meta was fined about US$275 million by the EU on Monday for a data leak last year that violated privacy rules. This leak led to the personal info of over 500 million Facebook users being published online. Since last year, Meta has been fined more than US$900 million by the EU.

🚀SpaceX ship docks: SpaceX's Dragon cargo ship docked at the International Space Station on Sunday to deliver supplies, like new solar wings and (more importantly) some ice cream.

😽World's oldest cat: A cat named Flossie, who's almost 27 (which is like 120 in human years), has been hailed the world's oldest living cat by Guinness World Records. She lives in the UK, and even though she's deaf and can't see well, she's still in good health for a woman her age.

Source: Guinness World Records
Source: Guinness World Records

Written and put together by Joey Fung, Vanessa Wolosz, and Christine Dulion