FirstFT: Today’s top stories

Consumers around the world have stockpiled an extra $5.4tn of savings since Covid-19 began and are becoming increasingly confident about the economic outlook, paving the way for a strong rebound.

Households accumulated the excess — defined as the additional savings compared with the 2019 spending pattern and equating to more than 6 per cent of global gross domestic product — by the end of the first quarter of this year, according to estimates by credit rating agency Moody’s.

Booming global consumer confidence suggests shoppers will be willing to spend again as soon as businesses reopen when virus restrictions are eased.

In the first three months of 2021, the Conference Board global consumer confidence index hit its highest level since records began in 2005, with significant uplifts in all regions of the world. (FT)

Dot plot chart showing how households have accumulated an unusual amount of savings in the last year by showing the net household saving ratio for various countries

Coronavirus digest

  • Half of US adults have received at least one Covid-19 vaccine dose. The US will probably resume using Johnson & Johnson’s jab this week, Anthony Fauci said. South Africa’s health authority has recommended resuming use of the jab.

  • Seventy-seven cases of a variant linked to a surge in India have been found in the UK. Health officials said they were assessing whether the variant is more transmissible and vaccine evasive than other forms of the virus.

  • India’s rupee has swung from emerging market leader to laggard as the country battles a ferocious wave of cases.

  • Britain’s coach sector has criticised the government over a ban on private trips for people from multiple households until next month.

  • The EU hit the milestone last week of 100m vaccine doses administered. But the headline figure masked growing disparities in the bloc. Australia will from Monday ask Brussels to lift export restrictions on vaccines and drop a plan to introduce carbon tariffs on imports from outside the bloc.

  • Remittances from Russia are helping ease the economic impact of the pandemic in central Asia. (AP, FT)

Get ready for the new politics of resentment in the office, writes Pilita Clark. One worker’s agonising time on furlough was another’s blissful paid holiday. Follow the latest news on our live blog and sign up for our Coronavirus Business Update email newsletter.

In the news

Top European football clubs sign up to breakaway Super League A dozen of Europe’s wealthiest football clubs, including Spain’s Real Madrid and Barcelona, England’s Manchester United and Manchester City and Italy’s Juventus have agreed to join a breakaway “Super League” competition that aims to supersede the Champions League and would mark the biggest transformation of the game in decades.

Brexit hits N Ireland drug supplies UK companies making non-branded drugs have already started to withdraw medicines from the Northern Ireland market over the costs of post-Brexit red tape, according to industry leaders. Maros Sefcovic, EU Brexit chief, called for a “good faith” approach to applying new trading rules.

Pharma industry leaders have warned over the supply to Northern Ireland of crucial ingredients used in intravenous drips
Pharma industry leaders have warned over the supply to Northern Ireland of crucial ingredients used in intravenous drips © Yuriy Klochan/Alamy

Navalny’s supporters say his life ‘hanging by a thread’ Supporters of Alexei Navalny have called for protests, warning that the jailed Russian opposition leader’s harsh treatment in prison could result in his imminent death. Navalny is 19 days into a hunger strike over the prison’s refusal to let him see a doctor of his choice.

HSBC top brass forced to hot desk Chief executive Noel Quinn has abolished the entire executive floor of the bank’s Canary Wharf skyscraper as it drives through sweeping changes to post-pandemic working practices. Executives — the CEO included — now hot desk on an open-plan floor two storeys below.

Dispute over Trump tax change threatens infrastructure bill A fight over Donald Trump’s 2017 tax reforms stands in the way of Joe Biden’s $2tn infrastructure proposals, with US lawmakers from both parties threatening to oppose any tax and spending plan that does not reverse a critical provision of Trump’s changes. “Building back better” should also include bolstering human services, writes Rana Foroohar.

  • A liberal critique has the capacity to foul up the politics of Biden’s infrastructure bill — that it is fiscally too progressive, Edward Luce wrote in Swamp Notes. Sign up here.

Sinn Féin leader apologises for Mountbatten assassination Mary Lou McDonald has apologised for the IRA’s killing of Lord Mountbatten more than 40 years ago. The comments, the day after the funeral of his nephew Prince Philip, marked a change in tone from her predecessor Gerry Adams, who said the royal “knew the danger” of coming to Ireland.

Sinn Féin president Mary Lou McDonald
Sinn Féin president Mary Lou McDonald © Aidan Crawley/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

Aung San Suu Kyi supporters unveil ‘national unity government’ The parallel government was formed by MPs from the deposed leader’s party and will include senior representatives from Myanmar’s ethnic minority. The junta has misjudged the reactions of Beijing, Asean and the people whose rights they are crushing, writes Andrew Heyn, former UK ambassador to Myanmar.

Indianapolis shooter identified A former FedEx employee returned to his onetime workplace and killed eight people at a facility in Indianapolis, Indiana, late on Thursday, authorities said, the latest in a spate of US mass shootings in recent weeks.

  • Since the trial of former police officer Derek Chauvin began in March, at least 64 people — including Daunte Wright — have died at the hands of law enforcement nationwide. (FT, NYT)

UK ethnicity pay gap reporting calls A requirement for large companies to publish the pay gap between staff of different ethnicities would could help tackle racial inequality in the workplace, according to UK business groups and economists who accused the government-commissioned race report of downplaying problems in the labour market.

The day ahead

UK launches housing scheme The government will on Monday launch a scheme designed to help buyers on to the housing ladder by encouraging banks to lend up to 95 per cent of a property’s value.

Australia-New Zealand travel bubble The launch of an Australia-New Zealand quarantine-free “travel bubble” on Monday could provide a template elsewhere and pave the way for an airline industry recovery, according to the countries’ leading carriers.

Czech diplomats face Russia deadline In response to the Czech Republic’s decision to expel 18 Russian diplomats over explosions at a Czech ammunition dump in 2014, Moscow has ordered 20 Czech diplomats to leave the country by midnight.

Earnings round-up Coca-Cola, IBM, Prologis and United Airlines report.

What else we’re reading

How Birmingham is emerging from London’s shadow Known for its role in the industrial revolution, Birmingham is remaking itself as a tech and financial services hub. Goldman Sachs’ choice of the West Midlands city over destinations such as Amsterdam, Frankfurt or Paris has added to its allure. What does it mean for London? (FT)

Wirecard inquiry: Germany’s elite exposed The inquiry into Wirecard — which announced last June that €1.9bn were missing from its accounts before collapsing into insolvency — has electrified Berlin’s political class and led to a swath of resignations. The question is: why did regulators fail to spot one of the country’s worst-ever corporate frauds?

Both Angela Merkel and finance minister Olaf Scholz have been drawn into the inquiry; Merkel over allegations of lobbying China, and Scholz because he oversaw the financial regulator
Both Angela Merkel and finance minister Olaf Scholz have been drawn into the inquiry; Merkel over allegations of lobbying China, and Scholz because he oversaw the financial regulator © FT montage; Reuters; EPA-EFE

Gaming inspires worlds of virtual work As we emerge from lockdowns and into hybrid working, employees are unlikely to be in the office all together every day — and some companies are going fully remote permanently. VR tools can help avoid Zoom fatigue and encourage more natural exchanges — or “water cooler” moments.

Inside Jordan’s royal crisis After Prince Hamzah was passed over for a position overseeing military intelligence services, he began courting tribal groups angry about the faltering economy and a loss of access to King Abdullah. That tactic brought the ambitious prince and the rest of the ruling family into open conflict two weeks ago.

King Abdullah of Jordan, right, and Prince Hamzah bin Hussein, left, in 2004 — the year that Hamzah was stripped of his role as crown prince © Alamy
King Abdullah of Jordan, right, and Prince Hamzah bin Hussein, left, in 2004 — the year that Hamzah was stripped of his role as crown prince © Alamy

Flying cars prepare for take-off What has long been stuck in the realm of science fiction is fast approaching reality, writes John Thornhill. Even General Motors is joining the game with its “flying Cadillac”. As with other new technologies, one of the biggest risks may come from premature deployment and a public backlash. (FT, Reuters)

Wall Street banks pulling ahead of Europe’s again Historians may look back and conclude that one unexpected consequence of Covid-19 was that it consolidated Wall Street banks’ pre-eminence over European rivals, writes Gillian Tett.

Gillian Tett: By comparison, this week’s crypto-mania is almost a side show
Gillian Tett: By comparison, this week’s crypto-mania is almost a side show © Efi Chalikopoulou

Podcast of the day

Whitehall’s revolving door The collapse of Greensill Capital and the involvement of former prime minister David Cameron have raised questions about the UK’s lobbying regime. Sebastian Payne discusses whether any rules were broken. (FT)

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