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FirstFT: Biden and Powell meet as inflation surges

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Joe Biden will meet Jay Powell today for the first time since his nomination to a second term as chair of the Federal Reserve.

The rare White House meeting between a sitting president and chair of the Fed takes place against a backdrop of rapidly rising prices and supply chain disruption and ahead of midterm elections later in the year.

It also comes at the beginning of the cycle to tighten monetary policy in the US. Earlier this month the Fed raised its benchmark policy rate by 50 basis points for the first time in more than two decades to a range of 0.75 per cent to 1 per cent. It was the first time the Fed had raised its key policy rate in back-to-back meetings since 2006.

After the latest meeting Powell, who was confirmed for a second term by the Senate earlier this month, said 50bp interest rate rises should be on the table “for the next couple of meetings”.

Biden has supported the Fed’s policy of raising rates to fight inflation, underscoring just how problematic high prices are becoming both economically and politically for the White House and Democrats, who face difficult midterm elections in November.

Biden last met Powell in November, when he nominated him for a second term as central bank chair. Presidents and Fed chairs have met in the past but it is unusual for a meeting of this nature to take place in an election year.

Thanks for reading FirstFT Americas. Here’s the rest of today’s news — Gordon

1. EU leaders agree to ban majority of Russian oil imports The EU is to ban most Russian oil imports as the bloc seeks to deprive Russian president Vladimir Putin of revenues to fund his war in Ukraine. The deal, struck after weeks of difficult negotiations, contains a temporary exemption for oil delivered from Russia by pipeline to give Hungary, Slovakia and the Czech Republic extra time to wean themselves off crude oil supplies from Russia.

  • More Ukraine news: Joe Biden yesterday said the US would not send Ukraine long-range rocket systems that could be used to attack Russian territory, dealing a blow to Kyiv which has repeatedly asked for such weapons.

2. Qualcomm eager to invest in Arm alongside rivals in upcoming IPO Cristiano Amon, Qualcomm’s chief executive, has told the FT that the US chipmaker is interested in becoming part of a consortium and investing in Arm to maintain the UK chip designer’s neutrality in the highly competitive semiconductor market. He added he would be interested in buying Arm outright if the consortium was “big enough”.

3. Nelson Peltz to join Unilever board The activist investor, who runs New York group Trian Fund Management, is to join the board of the consumer goods group behind brands such as Magnum ice cream and Dove soap. Peltz’s fund took a position in Unilever in January after failing to acquire GlaxoSmithKline’s consumer health division, according to an FT report. He was previously on the boards of Procter & Gamble, Heinz and Mondelez.

4. France apologises for Champions League chaos France has apologised for the botched security that marred the football final in Paris on Saturday, but differences over who was to blame risked turning into a diplomatic row after the UK government called the scenes “deeply upsetting and concerning”. Paris has blamed the “industrial scale” production of fake tickets for the overcrowding at the Liverpool part of the ground.

5. Executives ‘buy the dip’ at rate not seen since start of Covid Insider buying this month has been the strongest since March 2020, in what some Wall Street analysts said was an encouraging sign for the US stock market.

The day ahead

Market outlook US government bonds were hit by heavy selling ahead of the market open, with the yield on the 10-year Treasury note rising 0.08 percentage points to 2.83 per cent as the price of the benchmark instrument fell. Wall Street stock futures edged lower ahead of the first trading session of the week in the US following Monday’s Memorial Day holiday. Brent crude continued its recent rise, trading 1.6 per cent higher at $123.49 a barrel after the EU agreed a partial ban on Russian oil imports.

Economic data Canada’s economy is forecast to have expanded 0.5 per cent month on month in March, according to a Refinitiv poll of economists. That would mark a moderation from February’s 1.1 per cent increase and would also take the annualised pace of growth for the first quarter to 5.4 per cent. The US Conference Board’s consumer confidence index is expected to have slid to 103.9 in May from 107.3 and the Case-Shiller index of house prices in 20 large US cities is expected to have risen 2 per cent in March from the previous month.

Company earnings Salesforce is expected to report an almost 24 per cent increase in revenue from a year ago to $7.38bn in its first quarter, according to a Refinitiv poll. Investors are likely to focus on the software company’s commentary on clients’ spending outlook against a backdrop of mounting macroeconomic concerns. Also reporting after the bell are printer maker HP and retailer Victoria’s Secret.

Julian Assange extradition deadline UK home secretary Priti Patel is due to decide on whether to extradite the WikiLeaks founder to the US, where he faces up to life in prison for publishing military and diplomatic files.

Join the FT for The Global Boardroom on June 7-9, featuring US secretary of commerce Gina Raimondo, Bank of Japan governor Haruhiko Kuroda, former Google chief executive Eric Schmidt and more. Register free today.

What else we’re reading and watching

Is America heading for civil war? A clutch of new books makes an alarmingly persuasive case that the warning lights are flashing redder than at any point since 1861. Edward Luce reviews How Civil Wars Start: And How to Stop Them by Barbara F Walter, This Will Not Pass: Trump, Biden, and the Battle for America’s Future by Jonathan Martin and Alexander Burns, and The Next Civil War: Dispatches from the American Future by Stephen Marche.

How China’s lockdown policies are crippling the country’s economy President Xi Jinping risks becoming the first leader in almost five decades to witness China’s economic growth fall behind that of the US as he pursues a draconian policy to stamp out Covid-19. This interactive feature explores the impact the policy has had on China’s economy and its society as authorities battle to contain the spread of the virus, using among other things robot dogs and the “hazmat army”.

Colombia’s Hernández goes from also-ran to the brink of power Just a few weeks ago, the rightwing populist Rodolfo Hernández looked destined to be a footnote in Colombia’s presidential election. But in taking 28 per cent of votes in Sunday’s first round of voting, Hernández ousted the established centre-right candidate Federico Gutiérrez. His unexpectedly strong showing puts the favourite for next month’s run-off election, leftwing guerrilla Gustavo Petro, on the back foot.

How tech companies are betting on the metaverse The $200bn gaming industry is twice the size of the film business and has become a battleground as tech leaders vie to create the next iteration of the internet. The FT explores how gaming got so big, and whether it really can be the gateway into this new world.

The rich world’s fertility problem Rich nations can produce more of everything they need — except people. For a stable population, the average family needs to have 2.1 children: two to replace them, with “0.1” on top to make up for the people who won’t. But if wealthy states cannot increase their birth rates, they can attract migrants.

Technology

With slick looks recalling an espresso machine, Petlibro’s Granary WiFi feeder allows you to maintain the strict dining regimen you have established for your furry friend while jetting off for the weekend. It is one of five new gadgets to help you take care of your pet.

Petlibro’s Granary WiFi Feeder
Petlibro’s Granary WiFi Feeder, $89.99 (non-WiFi version from $65.99)

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Source: Financial Times

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