FirstFT: Today’s top stories

For the second time this year, policymakers from Dublin to Rome are preparing to relax Covid-19 lockdowns — and “save Christmas” for the family reunions of 500m Europeans. Except this time they avoid calling it a reopening.

The restrictions implemented at the end of October throughout Europe are starting to yield results, with a slowdown in new infections recorded in most countries according to data tracked by the Financial Times. This is fuelling calls from retailers to end the mandatory closures of shops deemed non-essential during the most lucrative trading month of the year. But unlike in the summer, European governments warn there will be no full-scale relaxation of the restrictions.

The UK, France and Ireland are among the countries where lockdowns are due to expire in early December. They have signalled they will ease restrictions only gradually after being too lax the first time around.

UK ministers have agreed that ahead of the Christmas period, a stricter tier system will be introduced. Some mixing between households for a “small number of days” over the festive period will be allowed, but ministers stressed Christmas would not be “normal” this year. 

Meanwhile, Chancellor Rishi Sunak has paved the way for big tax rises, warning Wednesday’s spending review will lay bare “the economic shock” of the pandemic.

In the US, millions plan to travel for Thanksgiving this week, despite the nation approaching 200,000 positive virus cases a day. (FT, CNN)

Coronavirus digest

Covid-19 has changed lives, from exercise habits to retirement plans. Should we also be locking down each winter to protect thousands from influenza, Jemima Kelly asks.

Charts showing the massive rise in non-gym exercise and stress-reducing activities amid pandemic

Follow our global economic recovery tracker and our live blog for the latest developments.

In the news

Trump’s legal options dwindle The avenues for Donald Trump to challenge his election loss are about to significantly narrow, with three battleground states carried by Joe Biden due to certify their results in the wake of a crushing weekend courtroom defeat for the Trump campaign, which also on Sunday requested a second recount of Georgia’s ballots. (FT, NPR)

A Trump cut-out figure at a protest against the results of the election in Atlanta on Saturday © Chris Berry/Reuters

Investors to reassess China’s tech sector Investors are reviewing their record holdings of mainland internet companies after Beijing proposed sweeping new antitrust rules for China’s technology industry. “I believe the bull run in the tech sector in China has halted,” said Wong Kok Hoi, chief investment officer of Singapore-based APS Asset Management. (FT)

SK Group pursues path away from fossil fuels South Korea’s third-biggest company has vowed to end all new oil and gas investments overseas and slash its carbon emissions by two-thirds, as it plots a transformation away from fossil fuels. (FT)

Buyout of Japan Asia Group faces activist challenge The management buyout of a small green energy and technology group has put one of the world’s biggest private equity firms, Carlyle, on a collision course with the family of Japan’s most notorious activist investor. Analysts predict that, after decades of a near-total absence of hostile takeovers, Japan is on the brink of change. (FT)

Ethiopia tells Tigrayans to ‘save themselves’ Ethiopia’s army said it planned to strike the city of Mekelle with heavy artillery, warning civilians to leave or take shelter ahead of a new, dangerous phase in the two-week old civil conflict. (FT)

Ethiopia’s military spokesman Col Dejene Tsegaye told the state-run Ethiopia Broadcasting Corporation ‘the junta is now shielding itself within the public and the public must say to them ‘don’t get me killed’ © Ethiopian News Agency/AP

Deutsche Bank looking to expand payments business Germany’s largest lender Deutsche Bank is on the lookout for takeovers and joint ventures to help towards its goal of becoming a major force in Europe’s rapidly consolidating payments processing industry. Read more in our weekly #fintechft newsletter delivered on Mondays. Sign up here. (FT)

China seeks first lunar rock retrieval since 1970s China will launch an unmanned spacecraft to the Moon this week to retrieve lunar rocks — a first for any nation in 50 years. If successful, China will join only the United States and the then-Soviet Union in collecting lunar samples. (Reuters)

Booker Prize winner Douglas Stuart has won the 2020 Booker Prize for his debut novel Shuggie Bain. Here are the three authors shortlisted for the FT and McKinsey’s Bracken Bower Prize 2020 for the best business book proposal; read excerpts of their proposals here. (FT)

The days ahead

South Korea export data Figures out on Monday will provide a pointer on the health of global trade. Get the latest with our global economic recovery tracker.

Dame Elizabeth’s FCA report Former High Court judge Elizabeth Gloster will publish on Monday a report on how the Financial Conduct Authority handled the collapse of investment fund London Capital & Finance. Her account on the mini-bond scandal has been held up more than once by FCA delays on disclosing information. (FT)

What else we’re reading

The future of HK as Asia’s financial centre Singapore and Tokyo are poised for opportunity, but China’s shadow looms large, writes Leo Lewis.
Despite the chill of Beijing’s new national security law, the territory’s demise as a financial hub is a theory still awaiting a real test. Xi Jinping’s aim to double China’s economy is a fantasy, writes Michael Pettis. (FT)

The race to find a green energy storage solution Renewables such as wind and solar are becoming cheaper than fossil fuels in most parts of the world, but they need storage to be a viable, stable source of energy. As billions are being invested in renewables, there is a race to produce enough battery storage. (FT)

Lithium-ion batteries are currently the dominant storage technology and are being installed worldwide to help electricity grids manage surging supplies of renewable energy © Yuriko Nakao/Bloomberg

Corporate America’s deal with the Devil When Donald Trump passed major corporate tax cuts, big business supported the president. Now, as chief executives weigh how to respond to Mr Trump’s unsupported claims of election fraud, it’s a bit “too little, too late”, writes Rana Foroohar. Erika James, the new dean of Wharton Business School confronts the culture wars on campus. (FT, NYT)

Loneliness and me Rather horribly, the isolation the pandemic has imposed this year is not that different from my normal life, writes Claire Bushey. Millions of us were living with this curse long before the pandemic. With empty office buildings, the lonesome work life of office security staff is often forgotten. (FT)

Tough road ahead for New Zealand’s top diplomat Nanaia Mahuta, the first Maori woman appointed foreign minister in New Zealand, is already facing a fraught portfolio on geopolitics and climate. On China, a delicate balancing act is quickly growing more complex. (FT)

Nanaia Mahuta’s appointment surprised Wellington’s diplomatic corps

How Xi blew it Donald Trump’s presidency gave Xi Jinping a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to expand China’s influence at America’s expense. Four years later, that didn’t happen and a Joe Biden administration makes it even less likely. (Atlantic)

Taylor Swift’s catalogue sold to private equity group The news this week that a private equity group has bought Taylor Swift’s old masters, and that bidders are lining up to buy book publisher Simon & Schuster, highlights the value of back catalogues, writes John Gapper. (FT)

Could you restore a derelict home? The ultimate lockdown distraction therapy: restore a heritage heap. Take Horse Sand Fort, this 61m-diameter derelict man-made island going for £750,000 was built to stop Napoleon III’s invasion. One prospective buyer considered converting it into a legalised marijuana farm. But intrepid renovators need dedication and serious dosh. (FT)

Horse Sand Fort in the Solent, near Portsmouth, on sale for £750,000, was originally built to ward off invasion by Napoleon III © Alamy Stock Photo

Podcast of the day

Simon Schama on Culture Call Simon Schama is one of the world’s premier historians and art historians. He joins Culture Call host Lilah Raptopoulos to talk about Joe Biden’s victory after a tumultuous election, and colonialism. They are joined from Lagos by West Africa correspondent Neil Munshi. Listen on FT.com, Spotify, or Apple podcasts. (FT)

Illustration of the day

Banx: Two weeks after losing the election, Trump still calling out fraud

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