Business briefing

The daily business briefing: January 3, 2017

SpaceX prepares to return to orbit, Bitcoin price hits a three-year high, and more

1

SpaceX prepares for return to orbit

SpaceX said Monday that it had completed an investigation into the September explosion of a Falcon 9 rocket during a pre-launch test, and concluded that the accident was triggered by the failure of a high-pressure helium tank used to pressurize the second stage liquid oxygen tank. The explosion destroyed the booster and its $195 million satellite payload. SpaceX said it was correcting the problems and planning to resume launches Jan. 8 with a mission blasting off from Vandenberg Air Force Base northwest of Los Angeles to send 10 Iridium NEXT satellite telephone relay stations into orbit.

2

Bitcoin price hits three-year high

The price of bitcoin passed the $1,000 mark on Monday, reaching its highest level since November 2013. The cryptocurrency has been rising steadily for months, with its rise fueled by geopolitical uncertainty, the devaluation of China's currency, and an increase in interest from professional investors. "We are seeing the aftermath of zero interest rates run amok. So bitcoin is a healthy reminder that we don't have to hold on to dollars or renminbi, which is subject to capital controls and loss of purchasing power. Rather it's a new asset class," Bobby Lee, chief executive of BTC China, one of the world's largest bitcoin exchanges, told CNBC.

3

Iran unveils list of 29 companies cleared to bid for oil and gas projects

Iran on Monday released a list of 29 international companies qualified to bid for oil and gas projects in the country now that sanctions prohibiting such deals have been lifted under Iran's landmark nuclear deal with world leaders. The list includes some leading multinational energy firms, including Total, Shell, Eni, Gazprom, and Schlumberger. Iran in October invited international firms to bid for 50 exploration and production projects.

4

Finland tests 'universal basic income'

Finland this month is launching an experimental program giving 2,000 citizens a guaranteed income, on the theory that providing people with a "universal basic income" of $587 a month will give them greater security in an era when technological advances are making it easier for companies to replace human workers with machines. The pilot program will last two years. The participants were chosen at random. If the program gets high marks it could be expanded to the general population.

5

Mexicans protest gas price spike caused by deregulation

Protesters in Mexico gathered in small groups on Monday to express outrage over surging gas prices by blocking some roads and gas stations. Pump prices shot up by as much as 20 percent over the weekend due to government price deregulation. Rafael Sotocruz, a nurse protesting at one station, said surging gasoline prices will push up prices for everything from transportation to basic food items. "This will increase the cost of living for all Mexicans," Sotocruz said.

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