FirstFT: Today’s top stories | Financial Times

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Germany is pressing the European Commission to give member states the power to block the export of coronavirus vaccines produced in the EU as tensions mounted over shortfalls in supply.

Health minister Jens Spahn, whose country hosts a number of vaccine manufacturing sites, urged Brussels to force companies to obtain permission before shipping jabs outside the bloc.

“It would mean that vaccines that leave the EU need a permit, so that at least we know what’s produced in Europe, what is leaving Europe, where it’s leaving Europe for, and we have a fair distribution,” he said.

Valdis Dombrovskis, EU trade commissioner, said on Tuesday that Brussels did not want to impose curbs on shipments but instead companies should be forced to provide more information about where they were sending vaccine supplies.

The EU’s new rules for vaccine exports are due to be unveiled on Friday, with officials divided over how stringent the regime should be. The bloc’s vaccine protectionism will backfire, writes our editorial board. Find out what has been proposed and the likely impact. (FT)

Coronavirus digest

If Covid vaccines stop working, how quickly can drugmakers respond? Keep up to date the with the vaccine roll out with our tracker.

In the news

Brexit diplomatic snub Maros Sefcovic, the EU official tasked with overseeing the post-Brexit deal with the UK, has said that London’s refusal to grant its ambassador full diplomatic status meant that Britain “would treat the [EU] delegation in worse terms than any other country on the planet”. EU citizens are being offered financial incentives to leave the UK, months before the deadline to apply for settled status.

  • Tony Radakin, Britain’s first sea lord, spoke with the Financial Times as he embarks on a mission to promote the UK as a buccaneering trading nation post-Brexit. (FT, Guardian)

Nearly all Republicans back Trump All but five of the 50 Republicans in the US Senate backed Donald Trump in a procedural impeachment vote on Tuesday, suggesting the former president is unlikely to be convicted for inciting the violent insurrection on Capitol Hill. The trial is set to start in earnest on February 8. (FT)

Senator Susan Collins voted against the motion arguing the trial is unconstitutional but thought it was unlikely that Donald Trump would be convicted
Republican senator Susan Collins of Maine voted against the motion that argued the trial was unconstitutional, but said it was unlikely Mr Trump would be convicted © AP

Exclusive: Hong Kong quizzes departing financiers Fund managers and bankers leaving Hong Kong for other financial centres have been asked to explain their decision to government agencies amid concerns that Beijing’s national security law could increase departures from the Asia hub. (FT)

Bruno Le Maire: EU recovery fund ‘too slow and complicated’ France’s finance minister has called on the EU to overcome “blockages” to ensure faster disbursement of its €750bn recovery fund to member states, and said Covid-19 will require re-evaluating eurozone fiscal constraints. (FT)

“If we want to emerge from the economic crisis in the best conditions, the European money must arrive as quickly as possible” — Bruno Le Maire

Solomon’s pay slashed Goldman Sachs’ chief executive David Solomon earned $17.5m for 2020, $10m less than the previous year, after the bank’s board cut the pay of senior executives in the wake of 1MDB corruption scandal. (FT)

Biden-Putin call Joe Biden warned Vladimir Putin that the US would respond to “malign actions” by Russia as the two leaders closed in on extending a crucial nuclear weapons treaty during their first phone call. Mr Biden also addressed the issue of Russian activist Alexei Navalny, whose detention revealed jitters in the Kremlin. (FT)

Microsoft shares surge to new high A pandemic-fuelled triple-whammy in the final quarter of 2020 lifted Microsoft’s revenues and earnings far above expectation. A boom in PC sales and increased usage of its cloud services produced a 17 per cent surge in revenue, to $43.1bn. (FT)

Line chart of Closing share price ($) showing Microsoft shares closed at an all-time high on Tuesday, and rose further in after-hours trading

China’s asset bubble warning Stocks across the country dropped on Tuesday after the central bank tightened financial conditions and an official raised concerns that loose liquidity could inflate an asset bubble. The falls followed the decision by the People’s Bank of China to withdraw Rmb78bn ($12bn) of net liquidity through its open market operations. (FT)

Indian farmers vent anger Thousands of farmers driving tractors descended on New Delhi, overwhelming police attempts to beat them back in a sharp escalation of demonstrations against controversial agriculture reforms. (FT)

The day ahead

Holocaust Remembrance Day Ceremonies will be held around the world to honour International Holocaust Remembrance Day on Wednesday. About 900 Holocaust survivors have died of Covid-19, Israel’s Central Bureau of Statistics said this week. (Times of Israel)

Earnings round-up Apple is expected to reveal demand for its new 5G iPhone, MacBooks and AirPods have helped it break the $100bn sales barrier. Boeing is set to post its worst yearly cash outflow performance on record. Facebook and Tesla also publish quarterly earnings. (FT)

Fed meets Investors will be closely watching to gauge the strength of the Federal Reserve’s commitment to keeping ultra-loose monetary policies in place if inflation returns at a faster pace than expected. Here are five things to watch at the US central bank’s first meeting of 2021. (FT)

Economic data Japan is to publish monthly retail figures for December, while US durable goods orders likely rose for the eighth month. (WSJ)

What else we’re reading

Competence is Joe Biden’s best strategy Will President Joe Biden succeed? Like many others, at home and abroad, Martin Wolf desperately hopes so. But first, there needs to be consensus on what “success” means: first of all, restoring order to American politics. (FT)

‘Democrats have to prove that government can work — and Republicans are determined to prove the opposite’
‘Democrats have to prove that government can work — and Republicans are determined to prove the opposite’ © James Ferguson

Donald Trump’s new nemesis Among the challenges facing Donald Trump in his post-presidential life — from reviving a sputtering business empire to fending off impeachment and restoring lustre to his brand — the most grave might be Cyrus Vance. The Manhattan district attorney is pursuing what is the only known criminal investigation against Mr Trump. (FT)

Reddit traders wage battle against Wall Street An army of amateur traders has launched a siege on Wall Street, shaking up markets and leaving seasoned hedge funds reeling. The games retailer GameStop sits at ground zero of a brawl that has shown have-a-go investors are no longer just a sideshow. Here are other stocks they’re after.

  • A growing number of companies are joining Tesla in the sky-high valuation club, causing divisions between those warning of a “bubble” and those questioning traditional assumptions about how best to value a business. (FT, WSJ)

Line chart of Value of shares traded each day ($bn) showing GameStop: one of the biggest trades on Monday

Scotland’s pro-unionists Scotland’s governing Scottish National party has announced plans to hold a second referendum on leaving the UK — without Westminster approval if necessary. How might pro-union politicians stop the sundering of the UK? (FT)

Why did Leon Black pay Jeffrey Epstein? Lawyers for Apollo pointed to a professional relationship to explain why its founder had paid $158m to Epstein over a five-year period during which the disgraced businessman and late paedophile served as Mr Black’s high-priced adviser. The FT’s Mark Vandevelde and Sujeet Indap lay out the details. (FT)

Leon Black, right, co-founder of Apollo Global Management, leaned on Jeffrey Epstein, left, as an ‘architect’ of the private office that managed his investments
Leon Black, right, co-founder of Apollo Global Management, leaned on Jeffrey Epstein, left, as an ‘architect’ of the private office that managed his investments © FT montage; Bloomberg, Patrick McMullan/Getty

Video of the day

Donald Trump’s legal position explained The FT’s Kadhim Shubber looks at the many legal challenges facing the former president, from impeachment to a criminal investigation into his tax affairs. (FT)

Video: Donald Trump’s legal position explained

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