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Coronavirus cases and vaccinations
Total global cases: 139.0m
Total doses given: 844.0m
Get the latest worldwide picture with our vaccine tracker
Construction of new homes in the US in March grew at its quickest pace since 2006
Businesses in England said £5bn in pandemic restart grants had not arrived in time to safety-proof their premises
Australia reported its first death from blood clots “likely to be linked” with the AstraZeneca vaccine
For up-to-the-minute coronavirus updates, visit our live blog
China’s record first-quarter growth figures of 18.3 per cent, announced this morning, come as welcome news for a government busily preparing for the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Chinese Communist party in July.
There is evidence that momentum is slowing — quarter-on-quarter growth was just 0.6 per cent — and the IMF has pointed out that the country’s economy will still bear some permanent scarring from the coronavirus pandemic. Still, the recovery has been much quicker than those of China’s peers, thanks to its success in containing coronavirus and a period of intense industrial production, which jumped 24.5 per cent in the quarter. Global trade is booming while household consumption and retail sales are also buoyant.
China’s growing economic strength is also helping western companies, especially in high-end sectors, mitigate some of the disastrous effects of the pandemic.
LVMH, the world’s biggest luxury goods company, reported strong demand from Chinese consumers for its brands, including Dior and Louis Vuitton, helping offset the loss felt by the lack of free-spending Chinese visitors to its boutiques in Europe as international travel all but dried up. L’Oréal, the world’s biggest cosmetics company, enjoyed a similar boost from sales in China, now its second-largest market after the US. The Chinese love of Mercedes-Benz cars also helped first-quarter results at Daimler.
With signs of overheating in some parts of China’s economy, the administration is now turning its attention to monetary policy, but is unlikely to apply the brakes too hard in the months ahead. According to Diana Choyleva at Enodo Economics, “the party will do ‘whatever it takes’ to prevent a downturn in the economy or a bad slump in the stock market from spoiling the run-up to [the] celebrations”.
Jobs and spending in the US are both benefiting from the optimism generated by a successful vaccination programme. New jobless claims fell to their lowest level since the crisis began and retail sales rose at their fastest rate in 10 months.
The IMF said eurozone countries needed to spend an extra 3 per cent of GDP over the next year to combat the economic impact of the pandemic. EU rescue funds could help countries such as Greece reset their whole economic model, said the country’s prime minister.
With the reopening of the UK economy, postings for job vacancies have returned to levels seen before the first lockdown in 2020. Although data are heavily skewed by the special circumstances of the pandemic, there are signs that lockdowns may have helped improve the perennial UK problem of low productivity.
Morgan Stanley followed Bank of America, Citigroup and other US banks in reporting bumper results for the first quarter, albeit tarnished by a $911m loss caused by the collapse of family office firm Archegos. US editor at large Gillian Tett reminds the “crypto kids” that the finance world’s “boomers” are still alive and kicking.
GlaxoSmithKline could face a fight for its future as Elliott Management, an activist hedge fund, targets the UK pharma company that has so far failed to grab a piece of Covid-19 vaccine glory. The multibillion-pound stake taken by Elliott comes as investors grumble about GSK’s leadership and a disappointing drugs pipeline.
The rise of remote working during the pandemic has left companies susceptible to cyber fraud and oversight processes struggling to cope. Read our special report: Risk management in Financial Institutions.
The FTSE 100 in the UK hit its highest level since the coronavirus crisis first swept across Europe in February 2020, boosted by strong US and Chinese data. Much of the index is comprised of companies that make the majority of their revenues abroad and is considered highly sensitive to the economic outlook.
As vaccinations pick up and pessimism over Europe’s future begins to fade, the region’s bond markets are starting to suffer. Government bonds are already coming under selling pressure: the German 10-year yield (which moves in the opposite direction to prices) has risen to its highest level since the end of February.
“A bit like returning English pub goers, investors in UK shares might set out full of optimism but I have a sneaking suspicion they’ll end up being rained on.” Consumer editor Claer Barrett examines whether investors should pile into the UK “reopening” trade. The FT Editorial Board warned investors everywhere of false dawns and too quickly assuming that the pandemic is ending.
Have your say
Non-native comments on Virgin Atlantic boss warns of long-term hit to business travel:
I’ve had platinum and two gold cards from different carriers four years ago. I have not taken a single flight since March. And I am not alone.
Do I miss it? Teleconferencing is suboptimal compared to face to face meetings, that is clear. But on the other hand, not having to deal with airport security, bad food, jet lags, turbulences, awkward pillows, etc is great. Not to mention being in a passport control in Dulles for 3 hours with other human beings (and viruses!) coming from all over the world. Will I ever return to the old ways? No way. Am I sad? Of course not, my quality of life has improved a lot. Even being confined.
Computers can drive our cars, diagnose illness and beat us at chess, but the key thing that separates them from humans is self-doubt, writes neuroscientist Stephen M Fleming.
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