FirstFT: Today’s top stories | Financial Times

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Coronavirus is likely to flare up again in the US, raising the possibility of a second round of lockdowns this autumn and winter, the head of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention told the Financial Times.

Robert Redfield warned the US would have to rapidly increase its disease-tracking capabilities to avoid another public health crisis as seasonal flu coincides with a second wave of Covid-19.

The CDC chief’s warning comes despite Donald Trump’s insistence that the worst of the pandemic was over and the US was “transitioning to greatness”, with all 50 states beginning to reopen.

There was strong demand on Wednesday for the US Treasury’s 20-year bond — its first since 1986 — to fund record-setting spending packages at historically low interest rates. The Federal Reserve debated tying any increase from near-zero rates to unemployment or inflation targets.

Meanwhile, an FT exclusive reveals that the biggest shopping mall in America is delinquent on its $1.4bn mortgage — an ominous sign for the $500bn commercial mortgage-backed securities market. (FT, WSJ)

Coronavirus digest

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An intensive care unit in Manaus, Brazil. The number of global coronavirus cases passed 5m on Wednesday © AFP via Getty Images

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In the news

Alleged Ghosn accomplices arrested The US has arrested two men accused of helping Carlos Ghosn flee Japan last year, where he was on bail awaiting trial. Michael Taylor and his son, Peter Taylor, allegedly assisted in the former Nissan chairman’s dramatic escape in December to Lebanon. (FT)

Carlos Ghosn’s flight to his native Lebanon began with a 300-mile trip aboard a bullet train from Tokyo to Osaka © FT montage

BoE eyes negative rates The Bank of England is “reviewing” negative interest rates for the first time in its 324-year history, governor Andrew Bailey told MPs, after the UK sold £3.8bn of three-year guilts at minus 0.003 per cent on Wednesday. Venezuela, meanwhile, filed a $1bn lawsuit to force the BoE to release stashed gold. (FT)

US threatens Chinese listings A Senate bill passed on Wednesday would force Chinese companies to de-list from US exchanges if they do not comply with audits or disclose foreign government ownership. The Trump administration set a $200bn fundraising goal to privatise Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, in what could be the largest-ever public offering. (FT)

World Bank names new chief economist Carmen Reinhart is a Harvard University professor who specialises in international financial crises. Her appointment comes as the Washington-based development lender tries to shield emerging markets from a pandemic-induced global recession. (FT)

Carmen Reinhart’s career has spanned stints at Bear Stearns and the IMF as well as academia © Bloomberg

Sony sees VR Chief executive Kenichiro Yoshida outlined efforts to perfect a virtual reality headset as Sony bets that the demand for online-only concerts and sports will push the technology into mainstream home entertainment. (FT)

Volkswagen’s apology Volkswagen has apologised over a racist Instagram advert that was part of a campaign for its new Golf model in Germany. (FT)

N Ireland Brexit clash The UK’s proposal for “minimal” border checks on trade between Great Britain and Northern Ireland is running into opposition from Brussels. The FT View is that Britain needs to extend its EU transition period. (FT)

Brussels has warned Britain not to expect a trade deal resembling those with Canada, South Korea and Japan © FT montage

How will the pandemic change the future of the energy sector? Join reporters Derek Brower and Anjli Raval for a live Q&A throughout the day on Thursday May 21. 

The day ahead

US joblessness The latest weekly report is expected to show 2.4m-2.6m new jobless claims, bringing the total to near 40m since the pandemic hit. A clearer picture is emerging of the widespread damage to the US labour market. (FT)

Job losses have hit some sectors harder than others

Economic data May’s flash purchasing managers’ indices from the eurozone, France, Germany, UK and the US will be scrutinised on Thursday for signs of slight improvement as lockdown restrictions were eased. (FT)

Trump visits Michigan Donald Trump on Thursday will visit a Ford manufacturing plant producing ventilators. Ford reportedly told the president he must wear a mask; it was unclear if he would comply. (CNBC)

The Trump administration has a new tool to bring factories home from China: sweeping corporate tax cuts. More in Trade Secrets, our daily briefing on international trade and globalisation. Sign up here.

What else we’re reading

What Xi knew Xi Jinping takes the stage at China’s annual rubber-stamp parliament on Friday facing scrutiny over the early management of coronavirus and with Beijing’s economic goals in tatters. China’s Communist party will survive Covid-19, Jamil Anderlini writes — in part because of the disastrous response in the US and UK. (FT)

Xi Jinping is facing questions about what he knew, what he did and what he didn’t do during a critical 13-day period preceding China’s acknowledgment on January 20 that coronavirus was highly contagious © AP

How traders learned to wfh Traders have long lived by a mantra famed for its masochism: be at your desk at 6:45am, come hell or high water. As lockdowns ease, banks are wrestling with how to send traders back to the office. The March 16 market crash brought the financial system to the brink. (FT, WSJ)

Germany’s identity crisis holds the EU’s fate The constitutional court in Karlsruhe raised a nationalist flag by firing a legal broadside at the European Central Bank, revealing old tensions between a German Europe or a European Germany, Philip Stephens writes. (FT)

Pace the enduring suspicions of British Eurosceptics, Berlin has no appetite for continental domination © Ingram Pinn

A decade of Orban changed Hungary Viktor Orban is now the longest-serving leader in the EU after Angela Merkel. His past decade in power has laid the groundwork for a far-reaching legacy that will transform Hungarian society at the roots, affecting everything from education, to the economy and the judiciary. (FT)

We need more than Big Data There is a rub to “digital epidemiology”, writes Gillian Tett: you need a mix of medical, social and data science. Scientists are increasingly optimistic about producing a vaccine in record time — but manufacturing and distributing it is another matter. (FT, NYT)

‘Top-down’ Big Data tools work best when they are combined with plenty of ‘bottom-up’ cultural analysis © Shonagh Rae

Helping hand An effort to record “ordinary” Covid-19 deaths online is more than a moral duty: converting statistics into individual tragedies has political consequences, Simon Kuper writes. An Afghan all-girl robotics team is making ventilators out of auto parts. (FT, BBC)

China should fear a Biden presidency The cold war was also a popularity contest, Janan Ganesh writes — something Donald Trump is uniquely unsuited to winning. Rodham, an entertaining novel, reimagines Hillary Rodham’s life without marriage to Bill Clinton. (FT)

Lawyers foresee permanent changes to work-life balance and FT hackathon teams respond to coronavirus app privacy concerns. Read more in Part 4 of our Special Report: Lawyers in a Crisis.

Video of the day

Air hoods for frontline medics Inventor Mike Bradley, working out of his garden shed, is determined his air-fed hood will help everyone work more safely, from doctors and nurses to bus drivers. (FT)



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