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Stock markets in the US and Europe suffered their worst one-day falls since March as investors were rattled by Federal Reserve’s dire assessment of US economic prospects and fresh concerns that a new wave of coronavirus infections was coming.

The S&P 500 slumped 5.9 per cent in New York, its worst day since March 16, while the tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite fell 5.3 per cent in retreating from its all-time high.

Europe’s regional benchmark, the Stoxx 600 index, tumbled 4.1 per cent. The UK’s FTSE 100 closed down 4 per cent and the German Xetra index 4.5 per cent. Bank and travel stocks were badly hit, a day after the Fed said the world’s largest economy faced a long path to recovery from the pandemic and it would keep interest rates close to zero until at least the end of 2022.

Fresh economic data showed US unemployment claims remained at historically high levels, reflecting the significant economic damage caused by the pandemic.

On Thursday, James Politi and Delphine Strauss answered your questions about how the international labour market is responding to the pandemic. (FT)

FT commenter Stopford0793: “After a very long period of low unemployment across the world, how ready are systems to cope with potential mass unemployment?”

Delphine Strauss: “As you suggest, not as ready as one would like . . . the question now is whether governments still run the support services that will be needed to help people retrain and find new jobs.” Read more here.

Coronavirus digest

Researchers are turning to wearable technology in the race to track Covid-19. Follow our live coverage.

In the news

Zoom disables accounts of Chinese dissidents Zoom’s role in shutting down a meeting to commemorate the Tiananmen Square massacre, which was hosted and organised by activists in the US but included participants dialling in from China, will increase fears about the platform’s security and how it will respond to government censorship requests. (FT)

Chinese student leaders, left to right: Chai Ling, Wang Dan, Feng Congde and Li Lu in 1989 © Reuters

NetEase soars on Hong Kong debut Shares in technology group NetEase surged on their Hong Kong debut following a $2.7bn secondary offering, as tensions between Washington and Beijing prompt more Chinese companies to raise cash in the city. (FT)

Japan to draft G7 statement on China security law Prime Minister Shinzo Abe joined Washington and London in putting pressure on Beijing when he announced that Japan would take the lead in drafting a G7 response to China’s plan to impose national security laws on Hong Kong. (South China Morning Post)

Joe Biden gains ground to Trump’s ire The former vice-president’s support has jumped as much as 3 percentage points in six swing states Donald Trump won in 2016. The Trump campaign asked CNN to retract a poll that showed Biden 14 points ahead nationally — the biggest margin this year. Meanwhile, North Korea issued a veiled threat of election meddling. (FT, The Korea Times)

Top US military official apologises for part in Trump park walk General Mark Milley apologised for walking with the president to a church near the White House last week after police cleared the area of protesters, saying it was a “mistake” for him to accompany the US president. Meanwhile, the Trump administration is weighing an executive order on police abuse. (FT, WSJ)

Companies respond to racism Amazon will bar police forces from using its facial recognition software for one year and Nascar has banned the confederate flag from its races. Walmart will no longer lock up African-American beauty products. Financial analysts from minority racial groups enjoy less access to corporate management than their white peers, a new study has found. (FT, NYT)

Companies corner Unilever is to abandon its dual Anglo-Dutch corporate structure in favour of a single company based in London, reversing attempts two years ago to combine its businesses in the Netherlands. And America’s biggest shopping centre owner Simon Property Group is trying to walk away from a $3.6bn deal to buy its smaller rival Taubman Centers. (FT)

Barnier willing to compromise The EU’s chief Brexit negotiator on Wednesday said he was willing to reach a compromise on the EU’s “level playing field” demands, which require Britain to apply the bloc’s state-aid rules, a crucial trade deal sticking point. (FT)

The days ahead

UK April GDP Consensus forecasts for Friday’s report indicate a substantial hit from coronavirus, with a month-on-month fall of 14.7 per cent. (FT)

Michael Flynn case A former judge on Wednesday called the Trump administration’s attempt to dismiss charges against Michael Flynn, Donald Trump’s former national security adviser, a “gross abuse” of power. On Friday a three-judge panel on the Court of Appeals will consider the case. (FT, NYT)

Royal Opera House reopening Live performance returns to London’s Royal Opera House on Saturday for the first time since March 17, with a Wayne McGregor ballet premiere and music by Britten, Handel and others. Audiences will not yet be returning, though the event will be broadcast. (FT)

Royal Ballet dancer William Bracewell performs outside the Royal Opera House in London, Britain June 2020. © via REUTERS

What else we’re reading

China’s Anbang muddle Anbang was once a darling of China’s “going out” policy that endorsed overseas investments. But Beijing could now be saddled with billions of dollars in debt and a bitter US legal fight that threatens to embarrass the Communist party’s top leadership. (FT)

India’s social violence has no fixed face While India and the US have leaders who exemplify the age of the strongman, the resistance and rage in their streets, squares and screens are instructive, writes Shruti Kapila. Narendra Modi and Donald Trump may be spitting political images, but the protests throw their countries’ differences into relief. (FT)

Delhi: one of the most striking images from the citizenship protests is that of a young man pointing a pistol at a large gathering of peaceful protesters in plain sight of police officers © Reuters

Will the pandemic spark innovation? Between 1920 and 1970, we went from fabric-covered biplanes to the Boeing 747 and Concorde. Not only have we failed to move forward since, we may even have gone backward. Tim Harford asks what the history of technology teaches about the pandemic. (FT)

US cities need more than ‘Kumbaya’ The white sheriff of Genesee County, Michigan became one of the first police officers to defuse the threat of violence by taking the side of demonstrators in America’s biggest antiracism protests in 50 years. But protesters won’t be satisfied by gestures of solidarity, writes Patti Waldmeir. (FT)

Giving back Ford Foundation’s president Darren Walker knew that the many crises of 2020 called for giving on a much greater scale than what had been done in years past. To better meet the need, Ford is taking a page out of government and corporations’ book: issuing bonds, a strategy rarely employed by non-profits. (NYT)

Health and wealth Have you gained weight under lockdown? It’s a personal question — but one Claer Barrett is willing to confront, as our physical health will have a much bigger impact on our future wealth than we perhaps realise. (FT)

For more weekend reads subscribe to Long Story Short, the biggest stories and best reads in one smart email — handpicked by a different FT journalist each week.

Podcast of the day

The future of oil Chief foreign affairs commentator Gideon Rachman, former BP chief executive Lord Browne and the FT’s energy editor David Sheppard discuss the pandemic and its impact on energy consumption. (FT)

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