Business briefing

The daily business briefing: December 12, 2022

U.S. hints at fusion energy breakthrough, Rivian scraps electric-van partnership with Mercedes-Benz, and more

1

U.S. expected to announce major fusion energy breakthrough

The U.S. Energy Department is expected to announce Tuesday that government scientists at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California have for the first time produced a net energy gain in a fusion reaction, a major step toward limitless, inexpensive clean energy, the Financial Times and The Washington Post reported Sunday. Scientists have been trying since the 1950s to recreate the kind of fusion reaction that powers the sun, but none have produced more energy than the process consumes. Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm is scheduled Tuesday to unveil a "a major scientific breakthrough" at the Lawrence Livermore lab. The FT reported that the fusion reaction produced about 120 percent of the energy it consumed.

2

Rivian drops electric-van partnership with Mercedes

Rivian Automotive announced Monday that it was scrapping a planned joint venture with Mercedes-Benz to produce electric vans in Poland. Mercedes said it would produce medium and large vans at the facility, with deliveries starting in 2025. Rivian, a U.S. electric-vehicle startup, and Mercedes-Benz Vans had signed a memorandum of understanding setting up the partnership in September. Rivian, which has a contract to provide Amazon with 100,000 electric delivery vans, said the decision came as it continues to "evaluate growth opportunities." The company's stock had dropped 73 percent this year as of Friday's close, and the shares fell 4 percent in premarket trading Monday.

3

Air India nears historic deal for 500 passenger jets

Air India is close to a deal to order as many as 500 jetliners from Airbus and Boeing, Reuters reported Sunday, citing industry sources. The contracts would include 400 narrow-body jets and 100 or more wide-body aircraft, including Airbus A350s and Boeing 787s and 777s, Reuters' sources said. The value of the deal could exceed $100 billion at list prices, which would rank it among the biggest flurries of purchases by a single airline. After expected discounts, the deal still could be valued at tens of billions of dollars. The landmark orders would be part of a resurgence of Air India under the Tata Group conglomerate. Airbus and Boeing declined to comment on the report. Air India didn't respond to a Reuters request for comment.

4

Stock futures rise ahead of inflation data, Fed meeting

U.S. stock futures rose early Monday ahead of fresh inflation data and a two-day Federal Reserve meeting expected to end with another interest rate hike. Futures tied to the Dow Jones Industrial Average were up 0.2 percent at 6:30 a.m. ET. S&P 500 and Nasdaq futures were up 0.3 percent. Investors are awaiting the Tuesday release of the November consumer price index, hoping for signs that the highest inflation in decades is easing. The Fed starts a two-day meeting on the same day that is expected to end with a 0.5 percent increase to the central bank's benchmark short-term interest rate after four straight 0.75 percent hikes. The Dow dropped 2.8 percent last week in its worst week since September.

5

China's COVID problems shift from lockdown anger to infection surge

China's COVID-19 troubles continued to shift Sunday from angry protests about lockdowns to a surge of infections after the government started easing restrictions, Reuters reported Sunday. Beijing lifted most of its tough zero-COVID policies Wednesday after last month's rare anti-government protests. Beijing and several other cities were already struggling against their biggest outbreaks of the coronavirus pandemic. In many areas, businesses were forced to close as infected workers had to quarantine at home. Health authorities reported 1,661 new infections in Beijing on Saturday, down from 3,974 on Dec. 6, but anecdotal evidence suggests that the infection rate is far higher. "Hundreds of thousands or tens of thousands of people are infected in several major cities," Zhong Nanshan, a prominent Chinese epidemiologist, told state media.

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