Chart showing percentage change in employed workers in the US during the Covid-19 crisis compared with the financial crisis, taking into account age, education and ethnicity

Growing inequality poses threat to democracy

Your level-headed briefing on how the coronavirus epidemic is affecting the markets, global business, our workplaces and daily lives, with expert input from our reporters and specialists across the globe.

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Latest news

With mixed signals on an economic revival and new spikes of infection in the US and Europe, Martin Wolf argues it is time to start thinking longer term about the future of our societies after Covid-19.

In the first part of an FT series called The new social contract, our chief economics commentator warns that growing inequality and the hollowing out of a thriving middle class — trends exacerbated by coronavirus — risk undermining constitutional democracy and bring the danger of plutocracy and social and economic dysfunction.

The series asks the big question of our post Covid-19 future: as we recover and rebuild, what are the key ideas that might structure politics, society and the economy? Martin’s proposal, in this first article, is citizenship: “a concept that goes back to the city states of the Greeks and Rome.”

“In a democracy, people are not just consumers, workers, business owners, savers or investors. We are citizens. This is the tie that binds people together in a shared endeavour,” writes Martin.

He argues that modern citizenship requires “loyalty to democratic political and legal institutions and the values of open debate and mutual tolerance that underpin them; concern for the ability of all fellow citizens to lead a fulfilled life; and the wish to create an economy that allows the citizens and their institutions to flourish.”

The series focuses on how the pandemic is forcing us to rethink the fundamentals, from labour to taxation to debt, and we’ll be featuring them here in the newsletter. Next up will be a focus on low-paid workers and whether they will ever get a raise.

Markets

Wall Street stocks rose sharply on Monday, as bullish sentiment in China rippled across global markets. Traders said China’s retail investors were piling into stocks after optimism was stoked by a front-page editorial in the state-run China Securities Journal that talked up the prospect of a “healthy” bull market.

The spot price of gold has risen 17 per cent this year and is closing in on $1,800 an ounce for the first time in nine years. The commodity, commonly treated as a reliable store of value by investors, has benefited from nerves over the spread of Covid-19 and the outlook for global trade — and rock-bottom yields available on other haven assets.

The World Bank has shelved plans for a second sale of pandemic bonds after the first drew criticism for being too slow to pay out aid to poor nations suffering as a result of the coronavirus crisis. It planned to launch a new “pandemic emergency financing facility” this year but Olga Jones, a former employee, said the agency “knows that [the scheme] is an embarrassment so are being quiet about wrapping it up”.

Business

Uber has reached a deal to acquire food delivery rival Postmates in an all-stock purchase worth $2.65bn, marking a major milestone in the long-awaited consolidation of the sector in the US. Dara Khosrowshahi, Uber’s chief executive, said the deal would help its Eats unit move beyond restaurant delivery.

Line chart of analyst revisions to consensus earnings per share for 2020, rebased, showing healthcare stocks have remained resistant to market downgrades

Long the subject of criticism for its high pricing, the pharma industry is a winner from coronavirus with drugmakers’ stocks outperforming the market on Wall Street. “We went from having been a political piñata in January to a recognition, at least in the minds of many policymakers, that this is an industry that we must support,” said Jeremy Levin, chairman of the industry association BIO.

The onset of lockdown forced companies to take quick decisions and accelerate pending changes, writes the FT’s management editor Andrew Hill on why the crisis marks the end of the road for longstanding business lines. “Knowing what we know now, clinging on to underperforming businesses merely for emotional or historical reasons is unwise.”

Global economy

With a recovery in air travel years away, carriers are seeking to raise new money from investors while the value of aviation assets has fallen sharply. “Aircraft, and slots, gates and routes, no longer have the same value they did at the end of January this year,” said Ernie Arvai, president of AirInsight Group.

Pierre Gramegna, one of the three candidates to become the next president of the eurogroup of finance ministers, said Europe must focus its €750bn post-Covid recovery spending on the “twin transition” cross-border projects of green and digital transformation.

A post-lockdown shopping spree has helped lift eurozone retail sales a record 17.8 per cent between April and May, outstripping analysts’ consensus expectations of a 15 per cent increase. The Eurostat data showed a sharp rebound in sales of clothing, footwear, petrol, electronics and computer equipment. 

Get in touch

How is your workplace dealing with the pandemic? And what do you think business and markets — and our daily lives — will look like after lockdown? Please tell us by emailing [email protected] We may publish your contribution in an upcoming newsletter. Thanks

The essentials

Goldman Sachs, Citigroup and JPMorgan Chase are among the banks to welcome thousands of students who this week begin Wall Street’s first year of virtual internships. The confidentiality constraints of working from home mean they will have less time working on real transactions, but they will still receive guidance on dress codes for the Zoom era.

With universities at risk of insolvency, the job market uncertain and higher education still charging the same rates while teaching mainly online, FT experts answer readers’ questions on the theme — is it worth going to university?

Coronavirus may finally offer relief from one of the most hated aspects of modern working life. “It is time to say farewell to the scourge of hot-desking,” writes the FT’s business columnist Pilita Clark, citing approvingly government advice that “workstations should be assigned to an individual and not shared”.

Final thought

As the dinner party makes a cautious return post-lockdown, a modern, technology-driven trend is coming to a dining table near you — “tablescaping”, where food is out but everything inedible on the table is decidedly in. “Worrying about the quality of the food you serve has become secondary to the theatre of the table itself,” writes Alice Ross, describing why the hashtag #tablesetting has gone viral on Instagram.