FirstFT: Today’s top stories | Financial Times

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US president Joe Biden and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin will meet in Geneva on Wednesday for talks aimed at arresting a rapid decline in relations between two countries beset by mutual distrust.

In their first face-to-face meeting as leaders, the presidents will grapple with accusations, complaints and charges against one another, including alleged Russian cyber attacks and election meddling, US sanctions against Moscow and the Kremlin’s misgivings over Nato military expansion in eastern Europe.

Other irritants in the relationship are torn-up arms control agreements, the conflict in Ukraine and Moscow’s jailing of opposition activist Alexei Navalny — leaving few obvious areas of co-operation.

The auguries for the summit are not propitious, writes the FT’s editorial board. Andrew Weiss of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace says the main question hanging over the meeting is whether the two men are prepared to put on the table to create, in Biden’s phrasing, a more predictable and stable relationship.

Five stories in the news

1. Big Tech critic to lead US competition regulator US president Joe Biden has tapped Lina Khan, a prominent critic of the power of large technology companies, to chair the Federal Trade Commission. Biden’s decision elevates the 32-year old Columbia University law school professor as Congress vows to crack down on anti-competitive behaviour among the largest US technology groups.

2. Oil likely to hit $100 a barrel The world’s top commodity traders told the FT Commodities Global Summit on Tuesday that oil would likely return to $100 a barrel for the first time since 2014. The prediction comes at a time when concern about inflation is rising and many commodities, such as copper, have already reached record highs, boosted by supply shortfalls as the economic recovery gathers pace. Register for day two of the conference here.

3. Kim Jong Un warns of North Korean food shortages The North Korean leader has sounded the alarm over food shortages and has urged officials to boost agricultural production as the country struggles with pandemic-related border closures, crippling economic sanctions and a series of typhoons and floods.

4. China makes biggest incursion into Taiwan zone China flew 28 military aircraft into Taiwan’s air defence buffer zone yesterday, its largest such incursion, according to Taipei officials, as Beijing continued to express anger over warnings from western countries and their allies about its military pressure on the island.

5. Credit Suisse kicks off Greensill claims The Swiss bank is preparing its first insurance claims on losses stemming from its $10bn of funds tied to collapsed finance group Greensill Capital. Credit Suisse is trying to recoup billions of dollars owed to the group of supply-chain finance funds.

Coronavirus digest

  • The delayed Tokyo Olympics will need a public bailout of about $800m if the games are held behind closed doors, according to a Financial Times analysis of organising committee accounts.

  • New York state lifted nearly all remaining Covid-related restrictions on Tuesday. The announcement by New York governor Andrew Cuomo came as data compiled by Johns Hopkins University showed that US deaths from the disease topped 600,000.

  • Many economists and bankers expect Mexico to expand almost twice as fast as previously forecast as the effects of the giant US stimulus ripple across the border.

  • The EU is preparing to sign off on an €800bn fund it hopes will revive Europe’s pandemic-battered economy. Meanwhile, Brussels has excluded 10 of the heaviest-hitting banks in the debt market from running lucrative bond sales as part of the recovery fund.

Follow our live coronavirus blog here and sign up for our Coronavirus Business Update newsletter.

The day ahead

Fed meeting The US Federal Reserve concludes a two-day meeting and releases a new set of economic forecasts. Here is a guide on what to expect from the updated “dot plot” chart.

Animated dot plots show Fed projections over time

Brazil interest rate decision The country’s central bank is expected to raise interest rates by 75 basis points for the third time in a row as it tries to keep a lid on rising inflation.

Bank of Canada testimony Tiff Macklem, the Canadian central bank’s governor, will appear by videoconference before the country’s standing Senate committee on banking, trade and commerce. (Bank of Canada)

What else we’re reading

Global banks adopt different back-to-work policies Goldman Sachs bankers were called back to their desks this week, lured by free food and afternoon concerts. Other lenders including Barclays will also see employees trickle back this month. But the pace at which employees are expected to return varies significantly, according to an FT analysis.

Global banks take markedly different approaches to calling staff back

Why is Wall Street’s fear gauge so low? After inflation fears shocked investors in the first few months of 2021, markets have switched into a different mode: a deep slumber. Analysts say the quiet period partly reflects the wait-and-see tactics of the Fed, which is prepared to sit out a spell of unusually high inflation. But some investors are growing nervous that complacency is setting in.

The US should spurn the false promise of protectionism Protectionism is back, above all, in the US. Although the tone is different under Biden, the reality is not, argues Martin Wolf. On the contrary, he says, protection has become one of the few issues on which there is bipartisan consensus. But Wolf argues that we should not throw liberal trade away for the wrong reasons and in the wrong way.

Toshiba’s sorry tale Scandal and collapse led to the 145-year-old conglomerate’s demotion from the main Tokyo bourse and forced the issuance of $5.4bn in new shares. That brought in overseas activist investors, who wanted more accountability and higher returns. Toshiba complied, at least on paper, writes Brooke Masters. But a damning new investigation makes clear that those promises were hollow.

Banning political talk at work is a lazy move While activism has become the new business currency, some companies want no part in it, banning political comments from work channels. But as Elizabeth Uviebinene writes, politics and social issues are not only enmeshed in every decision companies make, they shape the world of work. To ban them is hypocritical and alarming.

Life & Arts

Is now a good time to open a new restaurant? The pandemic has been catastrophic for the hospitality industry. FT journalist Daniel Garrahan and food critic Tim Hayward talk to restaurant owners in London’s Soho about restructuring their businesses during the pandemic and rebuilding.

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