FirstFT: Today’s top stories | Financial Times

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Good morning. This article is an on-site version of our FirstFT Europe/Africa newsletter. Sign up here to get the newsletter sent straight to your inbox every weekday morning

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The “reflation trade” that has dominated financial markets since the emergence of coronavirus vaccines has been pummelled after the Federal Reserve unexpectedly signalled this week a shift in its stance on inflation.

Commodity prices tumbled yesterday, while the dollar and long-dated US government bond prices raced higher, after the Fed reacted to unexpectedly strong inflation data by moving forward its guidance on when it might start raising interest rates.

Natural resources suffered the biggest hit, with Bloomberg’s commodity price index tumbling 3.6 per cent, its biggest one-day drop in more than a year, with WTI oil falling 1.5 per cent. 

So-called US value stocks — often cheaper, out-of-favour companies that are more sensitive to the pace of economic growth — fell another 1.3 per cent to extend the initial drop they suffered on Wednesday.

The dollar is on course for its best week since last September, while gold is headed for its worst in 15 months.

Five stories in the news

1. US Supreme Court throws out challenge to Obamacare The US Supreme Court has dismissed the latest Republican challenge to the Affordable Care Act, preserving Barack Obama’s flagship healthcare reforms in a win for Democrats. The 7-2 opinion denied an attempt to invalidate the sweeping Affordable Care Act. Meanwhile, pressure is growing on Supreme Court judge Stephen Breyer, 82, to retire and make way for a Joe Biden appointment.

2. General dismisses warnings of imminent Chinese invasion of Taiwan General Mark Milley, America’s most senior general, has dismissed warnings of an imminent Chinese invasion of Taiwan, insisting that the People’s Liberation Army was not yet capable of annexing the island.

3. ByteDance revenues more than doubled in 2020 The owner of the short-video apps TikTok and Douyin recorded a surge in users last year as coronavirus lockdowns across the world left people searching for more entertainment online. ByteDance revenues increased 111 per cent to $34bn as it recorded an annual gross profit of $19bn, according to people familiar with the matter.

4. Starbucks’ European unit pays $183m to US owner Profits at Starbucks’ European business fell almost 40 per cent to $104m in the year to September 2020, according to company calculations that aggregated the accounts of its franchise businesses across continental Europe and the Middle East. Still, the coffee chain paid $183m in dividends to its US parent company despite suffering its first dip in growth in two decades.

5. UK and US settle long-running Airbus-Boeing trade dispute The UK has reached a truce with the US in a long-running dispute over commercial aircraft subsidies for Airbus and Boeing, agreeing to a five-year suspension of punitive tariffs on a wide range of goods including Scotch whisky and Stilton cheese.

Coronavirus digest

  • CureVac’s chief financial officer said the company had not given up on its coronavirus vaccine, despite disappointing trial results.

  • Retail sales in Great Britain unexpectedly fell in May for the first time since January, as people spent more on hospitality and less on grocery shopping in the wake of lockdown restrictions easing.

  • Nurses and supermarket staff are seen as “key workers”. But what about security guards? George Bass writes that his job provides fear and grace in equal measure.

  • Afraid of the return of crowds after the pandemic? Here’s how to deal with them.

Sign up for our Coronavirus Business Update newsletter and follow the latest pandemic news on our live blog.

The day ahead

Juneteenth Today is a holiday for government workers across America after Joe Biden signed legislation to make Juneteenth, the day marking the end of slavery in the US, a federal holiday.

ECB meeting European central bankers gather in Frankfurt to debate issues including changing the bank’s inflation target and making monetary policy greener.

Iran presidential elections Iranians vote in a presidential election today that is forecast to cement regime hardliners’ control over the Islamic republic but the results risk being marred by the lowest turnout since the 1979 revolution.

Euro 2020 Football’s oldest national rivalry will be reignited at Wembley today when England take on Scotland in the Euro 2020 football tournament. The two sides first played each other in 1872 in a match that ended in a 0-0 draw. Sign up to our business of sport email Scoreboard for Euro 2020 updates.

What else we’re reading

Elon Musk: CO2 saint or sinner? The electric car revolutionary has built a reputation as a clean energy champion. But SpaceX has never fitted in with Musk’s green image and now the tech billionaire is driving the energy-hungry crypto market. FT writers and experts weigh his climate record in this new film.

How much can Lina Khan do to rein in Big Tech? This week’s announcement that Lina Khan will become the next head of the Federal Trade Commission sets the Columbia law school professor up as one of Washington’s foremost trustbusters, writes West Coast editor Richard Waters. But having done much to set the agenda for the Democrats’ assault on Big Tech, can she now deliver?

Football vs the culture wars Gideon Rachman, the FT’s chief foreign affairs commentator and a veteran football tournament goer, reflects on the tension between the sport and politics after returning to the stands this week.

  • ‘Agua . . . no Coca-Cola’: Cristiano Ronaldo’s rejection of strategically placed Coca-Cola bottles at a press conference has left sponsors and tournament organisers scrambling to limit the damage to endorsement deals.

Lordstown Motors rues broken promises The electric vehicle start-up had pledged to revive Lordstown and transform a part of north-east Ohio into what some dubbed “Voltage Valley”. Instead this week the chief executive and chief financial officer resigned and the company warned it could run out of money.

Why we lose track of spending in a cashless society What looks like fraud, feels like fraud but isn’t fraud? A company website that pops up when you search for a government agency but charges a fee for forwarding your details to the real website. Tim Harford worries that we live in a blur, spending cash without perceiving what happened. Covid-19, with its shift to online spending, has catalysed this process further.

  • How does culture shape our money mentality? Humans are less predictable, or rational, than the finance industry likes to think, writes Gillian Tett.

Life & Arts

Looking for something to watch this weekend? FT film writer Danny Leigh reviewed In the Heights, The Reason I Jump, It Must Be Heaven, The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard and The Father — plus the reissued 1996 classic Fargo.

‘In the Heights’ is based on Lin Manuel Miranda’s 2008 breakthrough show © Courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures
‘In the Heights’ is based on Lin Manuel Miranda’s 2008 breakthrough show © Courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures

Correction: Pressure is growing on Supreme Court judge Stephen Breyer to retire, not Harvard Law School professor Randall Kennedy, as was incorrectly stated in an earlier edition of FirstFT.

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