FirstFT: Today’s top stories | Financial Times

FirstFT: Today’s top stories | Financial Times

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Texas governor Greg Abbott has issued an order requiring face masks to be worn in public in the state’s hardest-hit regions and given local governments the authority to limit public gatherings to 10 people.

The governor’s order, which marks a stark reversal of his earlier approach to the pandemic, came as Texas recorded 7,915 new infections on Thursday, just under the record 8,076 tallied on Wednesday. The number of new cases nationwide increased by more than 50,000 for the second day in a row and the death total rose above 128,000.

“We need to refocus on slowing the spread but this time we want to do it without closing down Texas again,” Mr Abbott said on Thursday.

Texas was one of the first states to reopen its economy in May after the nationwide shutdown. But in recent days it has been forced to reverse some of its earlier decisions to relax restrictions, ordering bars to close and banning elective surgeries at hospitals in the state’s biggest cities to free up beds for coronavirus patients.

Florida, another state to aggressively relax its lockdown, saw the sharpest uptick in new cases on Thursday and has emerged as a new hotspot.

Ron DeSantis, the Florida governor and a Trump ally, has refused to roll back the state’s reopening plans. But ahead of the July 4 weekend, which has the potential to be a so-called superspreader event, some regions in Florida have issued their own guidelines and restrictions to residents.

Mask wearing, or the refusal to wear one, has become a conspicuous sign of ideology in the US. The latest edition of Swamp Notes has more.

Coronavirus digest

  • The recent spike in new US coronavirus cases is dismal to observe, writes the FT in an editorial. But the measures taken to combat the surge, it adds, are necessary.

  • The US jobless rate dropped to 11 per cent in June as employers added 4.8m new jobs. While almost every industry increased employment last month, energy was a big outlier.

  • A private survey of China’s services industries surged to a 10-year high last month, indicating an accelerated recovery in activity in the sector as consumer spending rebounds from the country’s long coronavirus lockdown.

  • The UK will begin to dismantle its quarantine policy to allow Britons to travel to as many as 70 countries without having to spend 14 days in self-isolation on their return.

  • Angela Merkel has warned EU member states that the “world is watching” Europe as she urged them to seal a deal on a post-coronavirus recovery fund.

In the news

Wall Street starts to picture Joe Biden in the White House A surge in support — and money — for Joe Biden ahead of November’s US presidential election is forcing Wall Street analysts to consider the potential market impact of the former vice-president winning the top job. Follow the latest 2020 election polls with the FT’s interactive calculator. (FT)

Big Tech CEOs agree to testify before Congress The chief executives of Apple, Google, Amazon and Facebook have confirmed they will appear before the House of Representatives judiciary committee, marking the first time all four technology giants have agreed to appear before lawmakers. (CNBC, FT)

Multi-strategy hedge funds post double-digit gains Funds such as Chicago-based Citadel Advisors and Izzy Englander’s Millennium Management posted double-digit gains for the first half of the year, reversing losses from March, after the Federal Reserve intervened aggressively to support the US financial system. (FT)

Tesla shares surge A day after overtaking Toyota to become the world’s most valuable carmaker, Tesla revealed it made many more electric cars in the second quarter than Wall Street analysts had expected. Output for the three months to the end of June was helped by the new car plant in Shanghai, where operations were largely unaffected by the response to the pandemic. (FT)

France’s prime minister resigns The departure of Edouard Philippe kick-starts a government reshuffle, designed to reignite Emmanuel Macron’s presidency two years before the next presidential election. “We need to lay out a new path,” Mr Macron said in an interview with French media on Friday. (FT)

Deezer makes bet on Mexico The Paris-based music streaming service is making a big bet on the fast-growing Mexican market through a partnership with media mogul Ricardo Salinas. The audio streaming market in Mexico, Latin America’s second-biggest economy, is expected to be worth more than $700m by 2024 — double its 2019 size. (FT)

Ghislaine Maxwell arrested in the US The one-time confidante of Jeffrey Epstein was apprehended on Thursday as part of a federal investigation that continued after the disgraced financier’s suicide in jail last year while he was awaiting trial on sex-trafficking charges, the FBI said. Ms Maxwell is said to have been living a “life of privilege” while on the run. (FT, Guardian)

Ghislaine Maxwell was arrested in New Hampshire on Thursday morning, US officials said © Patrick McMullan/Getty

UK court rejects Maduro’s claim on $1bn of Venezuelan gold The decision deals a blow to attempts by Nicolás Maduro’s regime to access $1bn of Venezuelan gold held at the Bank of England by ruling that opposition leader Juan Guaidó had been “unequivocally” recognised as Venezuela’s president by the UK. (FT)

The days ahead

Khashoggi trial Twenty Saudi officials will be tried in absentia in a Turkish court on Friday over the 2018 killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. His fiancée, Hatice Cengiz, hopes the trial will shed more light on the death and reveal where his body was hidden. (Reuters)

Hatice Cengiz © REUTERS

A star-spangled superspreader event As the US prepares to celebrate Independence Day this weekend, public health experts fear thousands more will contract the virus at indoor parties, crowded outdoor events, religious services and family gatherings. (FT)

The return of pubs England’s pubs, hotels, restaurants, hairdressers, cinemas and galleries will be allowed to reopen from Saturday and the two-metre social-distancing rule will be relaxed to “one-metre plus”. (FT)

What else we’re reading

How to make capitalism work for all Like many others, I have worried that when our societies divide economically, they also fall apart culturally and politically, writes Martin Sandbu, the FT’s European economics commentator. In this essay he explores the idea that after four decades of rising inequality, Covid-19 offers an opportunity to remake society. (FT)

How America could fail its democracy test In three out of four scenarios run by the Transition Integrity Project, a non-partisan group, to model the outcome of the 2020 election result, the US republic had hit a constitutional impasse by January 2021. Edward Luce, who took part in the exercise, says US democracy is heading into the mother of all stress tests. (FT)

Can BNP Paribas become Europe’s JPMorgan? The French lender stepped up in recent months when others balked at lending money to European businesses. It was all part of a grand plan for BNP Paribas to dominate European investment banking — a brave yet fraught endeavour that has often led to abject failure for many of the bank’s rivals. Laura Noonan explains why the Fed thinks Goldman Sachs is now America’s riskiest bank. (FT)

Retail tech draws lockdown dollars As a result of Covid-19, US consumers are now expected to spend $710bn online in 2020, according to research group eMarketer, up 18 per cent on last year, while ecommerce’s share of the retail market is set to jump to a record 14.5 per cent. Have shopping habits changed for good? Dave Lee, San Francisco correspondent, investigates. (FT)

‘This time, the protests won’t end when the summer does’ I took part in Black Lives Matter protests in the summer of 2016 but this time things feel different, writes Charlie Brinkhurst-Cuff. Plus, in his podcast this week the FT’s chief foreign affairs columnist Gideon Rachman hosts a panel discussion on the internationalisation of the BLM movement. (FT)

Museum or mosque? Turkey’s president Recep Tayyip Erdogan has thrown his weight behind longstanding calls from his conservative and nationalist supporters to turn the 1,500-year-old Hagia Sophia from a museum back into a mosque, triggering a divisive national debate. (FT)

If turned into a mosque, the Hagia Sophia would still be open to tourists, but some artworks would be hidden © AP

The race to become India’s TikTok The country’s 500m TikTok users lost their entertainment hub this week when India banned 59 Chinese mobile phone apps. And with a premium on online entertainment during the pandemic, several local apps are vying to become the “Made in India” alternative to TikTok. (Quartz)

Covid-19 scars may fade faster than we think My guess is that clever statisticians will be able to detect the psychological aftershocks of the pandemic for decades to come — but that, to a casual gaze, everyday life in 2022 will look a lot like it did in 2018, writes Tim Harford. (FT)

There is no such thing as a millennial If I have an agreeable life, I am inclined to credit it to supernatural talent and Napoleonic self-will. A more elegant explanation is that I was born in 1982 and not a few years later. For all our pique at asset-rich boomers, the true generational rift is intra-millennial, writes Janan Ganesh. (FT)

FT business books: July edition From achieving business success now and in the future to understanding bad decisions — here are this month’s top titles. For something more active, FT Globetrotter has tips, workout routines and reflections on staying active during the coronavirus crisis. (FT)

Video of the day

Dancers explore how coronavirus has changed the way we move, touch and connect World renowned dancers in Barcelona, Buenos Aires, Johannesburg, Kansas City and London respond to the Covid-19 pandemic, in an FT collaboration with Sadler’s Wells. (FT)

Thanks for reading and a Happy Fourth of July. Send your recommendations and feedback to [email protected]