Credit…Klawe Rzeczy; Photographs by The New York Times
Numbers that count
Two major central banks — the Bank of Japan and the People’s Bank of China — were the only ones not to raise interest rates this year, as inflation threatened economic growth and sapped consumer purchasing power. Central banks have collectively increased rates by more than 70 percent in 2022, according to LPL Financial, with the same goal: raise borrowing costs to cool rising prices that have been hitting shoppers from London to Poughkeepsie. Many were following the Fed, which increased its prime lending rate to a target range of 4.25 to 4.5 percent from roughly zero a year ago. The effect: stocks and bonds slumped on concerns that the increases would slow the economy.
The value in dollars of Elon Musk’s deal to buy Twitter, backed by about $12.5 billion of debt that investment banks, led by Morgan Stanley, took on to help finance the acquisition. The banks made the promise before technology sector shares crashed, the billionaire tried to walk away from the acquisition, and the market for leveraged loans seized up. Unable to sell that debt without incurring huge losses, the banks head into the new year saddled with loans that will constrain their ability to finance more deals.
Mr. Musk’s management of Twitter has been erratic: He’s fired workers, refused to pay invoices, changed content moderation policies, allowed banned users back on to the platform, temporarily suspended some journalists’ accounts, been accused of neglecting his other companies and said he would resign as C.E.O. (eventually). But his style has won admiration among many tech executives, founders and investors.
The number of vacant properties in China as of late summer. The world’s second-largest economy has been hammered this year and a sharp slowdown in the crucial property sector has been one big reason. Real estate development accounted for about a quarter of China’s G.D.P. over the past decade, but a squeeze on the industry caused seemingly impregnable companies to teeter and prompted rare social unrest among unhappy property owners. The lingering challenges facing the debt-fueled housing industry point to structural questions that still hang over the economy.
The number of layoffs in the tech sector, according to Layoffs.fyi. Job cuts at companies including Amazon, Meta, Twitter and Stripe have dominated headlines in recent months, as Silicon Valley faces pressure to downsize. The shift is partly a post-pandemic correction. Companies hired aggressively (perhaps too aggressively) when demand for services boomed as consumers were stuck at home. But as the broader economy slowed in the latter half of the year, companies have been squeezed and tech stocks have plummeted.
What to Know About the Collapse of FTX
What is FTX? FTX is a now bankrupt company that was one of the world’s largest cryptocurrency exchanges. It enabled customers to trade digital currencies for other digital currencies or traditional money; it also had a native cryptocurrency known as FTT. The company, based in the Bahamas, built its business on risky trading options that are not legal in the United States.
Who is Sam Bankman-Fried? He is the 30-year-old founder of FTX and the former chief executive of FTX. Once a golden boy of the crypto industry, he was a major donor to the Democratic Party and known for his commitment to effective altruism, a charitable movement that urges adherents to give away their wealth in efficient and logical ways.
How did FTX’s troubles begin? Last year, Changpeng Zhao, the chief executive of Binance, the world’s largest crypto exchange, sold the stake he held in FTX back to Mr. Bankman-Fried, receiving a number of FTT tokens in exchange. In November, Mr. Zhao said he would sell the tokens and expressed concerns about FTX’s financial stability. The move, which drove down the price of FTT, spooked investors.
What led to FTX’s collapse? Mr. Zhao’s announcement drove down the price and spooked investors. Traders rushed to withdraw from FTX, causing the company to have a $8 billion shortfall. Binance, FTX’s main rival, offered a loan to save the company but later pulled out, forcing FTX to file for bankruptcy on Nov. 11.
Why was Mr. Bankman-Fried arrested? FTX’s collapse kicked off investigations by the Justice Department and the Securities and Exchange Commission focused on whether FTX improperly used customer funds to prop up Alameda Research, a crypto trading platform that Mr. Bankman-Fried had helped start. On Dec. 12, Mr. Bankman-Fried was arrested in the Bahamas for lying to investors and committing fraud. The day after, the S.E.C. also filed civil fraud charges.
The number of jobs created in the past 12 months, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The labor market is confounding economists. Ordinarily, when economic growth falters, hiring slows down, too (example A: the tech sector). Job growth is ticking lower, but employers are continuing to hire, keeping the unemployment rate a relatively strong 3.7 percent. That’s good news for workers, but it may force the Fed to double down on aggressive rate increases in the first half of 2023.
The cost in euros of Germany’s bailout of Uniper, once Europe’s biggest importer of Russian gas. The utility company has been decimated this year as energy prices soared. The business was hit particularly hard after Gazprom, the Russian energy company that was its biggest supplier, cut gas flows in apparent retaliation for economic sanctions on Moscow over the invasion of Ukraine. Uniper posted a net loss of €40 billion, or about $42.5 billion — the biggest in German corporate history — for the first nine months of 2022. The government nationalized the company to avoid a Lehman Brothers-style effect on the energy sector.
The number of consecutive quarters Apple has grown — a streak that is now at risk. The tech giant last reported a year-on-year quarterly decline in 2019, but the punishing impact of China’s “zero Covid” policy on supply chains and consumer spending in one of its biggest markets now poses a big threat. Apple produces more than 95 percent of its iPhones in China and warned last month that it would ship fewer of its newest models after a Covid outbreak and weekslong lockdown at the device’s biggest manufacturing hub. That could have hit sales in the crucial holiday quarter.
The amount in dollars of the shortfall in FTX’s accounts when the cryptocurrency exchange founded by Sam Bankman-Fried declared bankruptcy last month. The company, once seen as one of the most stable in the sector, could owe money to more than a million people and organizations. Mr. Bankman-Fried was once lauded as an industry leader, able to secure funding from top investors who backed a wide range of causes and businesses, from charities and politicians to sports and the news media. But he is now under criminal investigation, former top associates are cooperating with the authorities, and FTX has been called “one of the biggest financial frauds in American history.”
11 years and three months
The length of time that Elizabeth Holmes, the founder of the blood-testing start-up Theranos, was sentenced to prison after being convicted of defrauding investors. (Ramesh Balwani, the company’s former C.O.O., was sentenced to nearly 13 years.) Ms. Holmes raised $945 million and her company was valued as high as $9 billion, turning her into one of Silicon Valley’s most celebrated entrepreneurs. But her claims that Theranos’s technology would enable tests to be conducted with just a few drops of blood proved untrue.
The Aftermath of FTX’s Downfall
The sudden collapse of the crypto exchange has left the industry stunned.
- A Spectacular Rise and Fall: Who is Sam Bankman-Fried and how did he become the face of crypto? “The Daily” charted the spectacular rise and fall of the man behind FTX.
- How FTX Operated: FTX called itself an exchange. But it was vastly different from stock exchanges, which are highly regulated and barred from engaging in many of the activities that the crypto company pursued.
- Political Donations: Federal prosecutors are seeking information from Democrats and Republicans about donations from Mr. Bankman-Fried and two former FTX executives.
- Ryan Salame: The former FTX executive, who told regulators about wrongdoing at the exchange and was a big Republican donor, has emerged as a central player in the scandal.
Boeing produced its final humpbacked jumbo jet on Dec. 6. The industry’s push for more fuel-efficient planes and the pandemic proved the death knell for the onetime titan of the skies. The plane made its first commercial flight in January 1970. By being able to carry hundreds of passengers at a time, the 747 helped drive a boom in international travel. But its market share fell in recent years, as airlines shifted to more sustainable and less expensive aircraft.
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