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China’s export growth slowed sharply last month as draconian Covid lockdown measures and weakening global demand battered the world’s second-largest economy.
In April, exports were up 3.9 per cent on 2021 — the slowest rate in two years — after growing nearly 15 per cent in the previous month, official data released today showed.
The figures add to the pressure on President Xi Jinping, who has been heavily criticised both at home and abroad for his zero-Covid policy.
The hit to the country’s manufacturers has also undermined hopes that Beijing will be able to achieve its goal of 5.5 per cent annual growth, which is its lowest target in three decades.
Global stocks tumbled as investors worried about the signs of a slowdown in the world’s largest economies and the reining in of crisis-era stimulus measures by central banks.
The pullback comes as investors grapple with interest rate rises from the US Federal Reserve as well as intense inflation and emerging signs of strain in the global economy.
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Need to know: the economy
Volkswagen’s chief executive has called for a negotiated end to the war in Ukraine to protect worldwide free trade, as the carmaker grapples with the war’s effects on its supply chain. Speaking at the FT’s Future of the Car summit, Herbert Diess also warned that the German group would struggle to overtake Tesla as the world’s biggest maker of electric cars by its target of 2025.
Latest for the UK and Europe
European capitals should consider seizing frozen Russian foreign exchange reserves to cover the costs of rebuilding Ukraine after the war, Josep Borrell, the EU’s high representative for foreign policy, has told the FT.
The cost of living squeeze will tighten further this year, according to ScottishPower chief executive Keith Anderson, who warned that household fuel bills in the UK could rise by a further £900 on top of the £1,971 price cap sanctioned by the regulator last month.
The rising cost of fuel and food are tempting some of the UK’s poorest households into “buy now, pay later” financing schemes, according to consumer groups. Energy and debt advice groups have warned that the “really worrying” development is a sign that individuals and families are having to resort to increasingly “desperate” measures to cover basic expenses.
The Faroe Islands, a self-governing part of Denmark that is not in the EU, has approved legislation to allow sanctions against Russia. It is the first time the islands, with a population of only 53,800, have levied sanctions against any country.
The US sought to tighten sanctions on Russia yesterday by blacklisting a swath of financial executives, including — for the first time — those at Gazprombank and restricting the provision of professional services.
Need to know: business
German vaccine pioneer has BioNTech comfortably beat analysts’ earnings and revenue forecasts, as surging rates of the Omicron variant of Covid-19 fuelled demand for the vaccine it jointly developed with US healthcare company Pfizer. However, BioNTech still forecasts that sales will fall year on year, anticipating revenue of between €13bn and €17bn, compared with almost €19bn last year.
Indian tycoon Mukesh Ambani’s Reliance Industries spent almost $1bn in the first quarter of this year. The investments were in renewable energy, fashion and ecommerce companies as the conglomerate works to diversify away from fossil fuels.
Rightmove chief executive Peter Brooks-Johnson has announced that he will step down early next year after more than 16 years at the UK property portal. His departure comes as the prospect of a slowdown in the housing market mounts, due in part to rising interest rates pushing up mortgage costs.
Morrisons is set to prevail in a battle to buy McColl’s with a last-minute offer for the crisis-hit convenience store chain that beat petrol station operator EG Group. Convenience stores such as McColl’s prospered in the early stages of the coronavirus pandemic when consumers needed to shop close to home, but have suffered as consumers reverted to using them just to top-up their larger shops.
The World of Work
A warning to all of you (including myself) who rail against modern portmanteau: we are now entering a new era of ‘bleisure’, the merging of business travel with holidays. The reason, according to FT work and careers writer Emma Jacobs, is that workers want more flexibility and are keen to explore.
Foot massages, table football and mandated time off between Zoom meetings are all being trialled in an attempt to support employee wellbeing in the workplace. But these efforts to manage workplaces post-pandemic have raised thorny challenges, according to Andrew Jack.
The to-do list is dead. Long live the “recovery achievements”. That is the message from this week’s Business Life column, guest written by Miranda Green. Find out what her recovery achievement treat of choice is.
Covid cases and vaccinations
Total global cases: 511.3mn
Total doses given: 11.7bn
Get the latest worldwide picture with our vaccine tracker
And finally . . .
There are few people who have not been touched by Jony Ive’s work. Now, the industrial designer, whose artistry turned Apple laptops, smartphones and tablet computers into highly desirable objects, investigates the craft of the hand and the art of making objects as guest editor of our How to Spend It magazine.
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