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FirstFT: Fed official pushes for quick ‘taper’

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The Federal Reserve should press ahead with a plan to dial down its massive pandemic stimulus programme despite an abrupt slowdown in US jobs growth last month, according to a top central bank official.

James Bullard, president of the St Louis Fed, dismissed concerns the labour market recovery was faltering, even after just 235,000 jobs were created in August, and reiterated his call for the central bank to begin scaling back or “tapering” its massive $120bn-a-month bond-buying programme soon.

Bullard, who is one of the longest-serving members of the Federal Open Market Committee, acknowledged that Delta-related concerns were having an impact, but stressed that other supply-side issues — including enhanced unemployment benefits that expired for more than 7.5m Americans this week — were also holding people back from returning to the workforce. He told the FT:

“The jobs are there, it’s that the workers may not want to take those jobs right now.”

Do you agree with Bullard? Email me at gordon.smith@ft.com and let me know. Thanks for reading FirstFT — Gordon

Five more stories in the news

1. El Salvador’s bitcoin debut stumbles The country’s pioneering adoption of bitcoin as legal tender hit snags within hours of the launch after the government had to take its app for storing the volatile digital asset temporarily offline and the global price slumped. Was El Salvador right to adopt bitcoin as legal tender? Vote in our poll.

2. Apple car executive defects to Ford Doug Field, an executive with responsibility for Apple’s secretive car project, has left for Ford in an exit that potentially spells the end of the iPhone maker’s automotive ambitions. Field will lead the development of Ford’s cloud-based platform for a next generation of connected vehicles, the carmaker announced yesterday.

3. Mexico Supreme Court votes to decriminalise abortion The Supreme Court ruled unanimously yesterday to decriminalise abortion, a victory for women’s rights activists in stark contrast to increasing restrictions on the practice in the US.

4. Pro-Bolsonaro rallies put Brazil on edge Tens of thousands of supporters of Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro gathered in the country’s biggest cities yesterday for demonstrations aimed at galvanising support for the populist leader.

5. Taliban announces government The Islamist group formed its first caretaker government in Afghanistan since sweeping to power last month. The administration features several members that the UN has imposed sanctions on for terrorism and an interior minister on the FBI’s most wanted list. Separately, the Biden administration has called for US Congress to allow more than $30bn for aid and relief for Afghan refugees.

Coronavirus digest

  • Pfizer’s top scientist has dismissed criticism that the company is pushing the widespread administration of Covid-19 booster shots too aggressively, in an interview with the Financial Times.

  • The Delta variant-fuelled summer wave has pushed the number of reported Covid-19 cases in the US past 40m, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Deaths total 647,461, it said yesterday.

  • A fresh round of talks between Venezuela’s government and the US-backed opposition has yielded an agreement which could ease access to coronavirus vaccines.

  • Boris Johnson’s government has unveiled a £12bn tax-raising plan to fund health and social care as the country recovers from the pandemic, pushing Britain’s tax burden to the highest level since 1950.

Follow our live coverage and sign up to our Coronavirus Business Update for a regular briefing on how the pandemic is affecting the global economy.

The day ahead

US Federal Reserve Beige Book release The central bank will publish its Beige Book, a qualitative report on the state of the economy. John Williams, New York Fed president, is due to speak at St Lawrence University on monetary policy and the economic outlook. (FT, WSJ)

Opening arguments in Elizabeth Holmes’ trial Lawyers for Elizabeth Holmes will begin laying out their defence for the Theranos founder today at the outset of the closely watched trial. 

Earnings GameStop, a stock favoured by retail investors who used Reddit earlier this year to drive the price higher, reports earnings today. Lululemon, the upmarket leggings and sweatpants company, also announces results.

France terrorism trial The landmark trial of 20 men accused of planning and carrying out the 2015 terrorist attacks in Paris that killed 130 people and wounded hundreds more begins today.

What else we’re reading

Living in the shadow of 9/11 When the Twin Towers fell on September 11 2001, Brendan Greeley ran to survive. He was 26 years old then. He is 46 now. This is his story.

“I told myself that what happened mattered less to me with each passing year. Then last month, with everyone else in the house asleep, I began to think about details.”

Brendan Greeley
Brendan Greeley: ‘I sat alone in my basement and wept, heaving, uncontrollably, in waves for about an hour’ © Shonagh Rae

Silicon Valley’s billionaires want to hack ageing process Why not try to defer death by hacking the ageing process? That is the prospect behind Altos Labs, a company that has poached some of the best-known scientists in the field of ageing. Amazon founder Jeff Bezos is one reported backer.

Libya’s neighbours still feel the death of Muammer Gaddafi Libya had long been an entrepôt for migrants heading north. But after the 2011 revolution which toppled the dictator, their numbers soared, with stories of brutality and abuse common.

China’s tough gaming curbs The risk of addiction, overspending and overindulgence has led to video games being dubbed a “poison”, a “drug” and “spiritual opium” by state-controlled newspapers. But last month Beijing imposed the world’s strictest limits on such games, reflecting increasing concerns about the reach of Chinese tech giants.

Business students hunt for an edge Job prospects for business graduates will be brightest in industries that have boomed during the pandemic, say academic advisers. But the ability to think digitally will be valued across all sectors, according to Maria Obiols, a careers services director at Esade business school in Barcelona. Here are more tips to help you navigate the post-Covid jobs market.

Fashion

With its prodigious use of caps lock and exclamation marks, American GQ staff writer Rachel Seville Tashjian’s invitation-only newsletter Opulent Tips delivers weekly missives on everything from the gustatory pleasures of lunch to a screwball interview with a leather slipper fetishist.

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