Wednesday, September 21 2022

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US President Joe Biden yesterday pledged to boost federal support for Puerto Rico after a hurricane caused flooding and left more than a million people without power.

In a call to Pedro Pierluisi, the U.S. Territory Governor, from Air Force One, Biden said the number of support personnel on the ground to help with response and recovery efforts would “dramatically increase,” the White House said. .

Hurricane Fiona made landfall in Puerto Rico on Sunday, causing damage to infrastructure and buildings and leaving about 1.3 minutes without power Monday night, according to Poweroutage.us.

Puerto Rico’s second-largest city, Ponce, received more than 30 inches of rain over a two-day period, according to a gauge operated by the US Geological Survey.

The Caribbean island has already suffered from devastating hurricanes Irma and Maria in 2017, which killed thousands and cost billions of dollars.

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

1. Investors dump vaccine stocks after Joe Biden says ‘the pandemic is over’ Investors yesterday wiped more than $10 billion off the market value of major Covid-19 vaccine makers after US President Joe Biden declared the “pandemic is over” in a 60 minutes interview on Sunday. Shares of Moderna, BioNTech and Novavax fell sharply.

2. Ecuador Reaches $1.4 Billion Debt Restructuring Deal With China The government of center-right President Guillermo Lasso said it had reached an agreement with two Chinese banks to extend loan terms and reduce interest rates and amortization. China has been Ecuador’s most important financial partner over the past decade, starting with leftist former president Rafael Correa, who was in office from 2007 to 2017.

3. Hedge funds target UK asset managers Hedge funds from Ken Griffin’s Citadel to Steve Cohen’s Point72 are betting a fall in shares of UK fund management groups including Abrdn, Ashmore and Hargreaves Lansdown will accelerate as a brutal bear market dent their investment performance and their ability to attract business.

4. Goldman Seeks Revenue from EU Transaction Banking Campaign The Wall Street lender is rolling out transaction banking in the EU with a new team in Frankfurt as it seeks to diversify beyond trading and advisory services. Goldman also plans to open transaction banking offices in Amsterdam and Japan.

5. Queen Elizabeth’s state funeral marks the culmination of national mourning Queen Elizabeth II completed the journey to her final resting place in Windsor yesterday after a memorable state funeral at Westminster Abbey as world leaders joined Britons in mourning the country’s longest-serving monarch.

Queen Elizabeth’s coffin is taken out of Westminster Abbey © Hannah McKay/Pool/Reuters

The day ahead

United Nations General Assembly The general debate at the UNGA starts today and will continue until next Monday. World leaders gather in person for the annual event for the first time since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020. The UNGA comes as the war in Ukraine, strained relations between the United States and the China, soaring inflation, natural disasters and a looming recession pose some of the most immediate challenges for countries around the world.

Fed policy meeting: The Federal Open Market Committee of the US Federal Reserve will begin a two-day meeting today that is expected to result in a 0.75 percentage point hike in interest rates for the third straight time. The Fed will make its decision tomorrow. Stock markets in Asia and Europe rose ahead of the start of the closely watched meeting as Sweden’s Riksbank kicked off a big week for central banks with its biggest interest rate hike in three decades.

American housing Data Potential home buyers are discouraged by the confluence of high home prices and rising mortgage rates, data released today should confirm this. Monthly new residential construction is expected to have held steady in August at an annualized pace of around 1.45 million homes, according to economists polled by Refinitiv, but building permits were down 75,000, or 4.5%, to 1.61 million.

Canadian inflation Canadian consumer prices are expected to have fallen 0.1% on a monthly basis in August, according to economists polled by Refinitv. Headline annual inflation is expected to have moderated to 7.3% year-on-year, from 7.6% in July and a 40-year high of 8.1% in June.

What else we read

America needs a proper risk strategy for China US-China tensions have reached worrying levels, particularly around the Taiwan question, says Rana Foroohar. There is clearly a growing effort by the White House to separate its supply chains and financial markets from Chinese influence. But, she asks, what is the strategy to deal with the economic fallout?

Putin, Xi and the limits of friendship Gideon Rachman turns to the Ukrainian conflict and how it is perceived in Beijing. The war has weakened Russia, destabilized Eurasia and strengthened the Western alliance, he says. None of this sounds good to the Chinese government. Chinese state media loves to point out the West’s inexorable decline, he says. But suddenly, the Western alliance looks rather playful.

Are the British the worst lazy people in the world? In the 2012 book Britannia unleashed, five Tory MPs argued: ‘Once they enter the workplace, Britons are among the worst idlers in the world.’ Given that two of the book’s authors were Prime Minister Liz Truss and Chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng, Sarah O’Connor says it’s worth asking: is there any truth to it?

Bar chart of average usual weekly hours worked in main job (full-time dependent employment, 2021, selected countries) showing UK hours worked above OECD average

Bolsonaro still has support in Brazilian affairs Less than two weeks before the elections in Brazil and it might seem from the outside that business has deserted President Jair Bolsonaro. Still, whisper it softly, says Latin America editor Michael Stott, because many Brazilian business executives and bankers still favor Bolsonaro over front-runner, leftist former president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva.

Indonesia’s unexpected success As the sharp rise in US interest rates adds to economic problems in the developing world, Indonesia appears unfazed and its economy is booming. Yet even as investors pile in, some worry about the sustainability of Indonesia’s newfound stability, particularly its politics.

Middle managers – on the new front line of office life Middle managers have had to deal with upheaval caused by the pandemic and staff turnover through the so-called big resignation. Today, many are tasked with overseeing hybrid work plans and managing team salary expectations in times of high inflation. Emma Jacobs spoke to hiring managers, advisers and academics to see how companies are faring.

Your reactions

As millions watched Queen Elizabeth II’s funeral, FirstFT readers around the world shared their thoughts on the late monarch.

“Tested at so many different times – still a rock, lifelong pledge to serve until the day he died. Simply remarkable, especially today in our environment (American in particular) of division, hatred and lack of civility. An American’s Perspective: I feel like we’ve lost that wonderful pattern of conduct and behavior” —Deborah Kelly, Denver, Colorado

“I am worried about the future and what it means for the country, both at home and in the eyes of the world. At the same time, I am delighted that Charles will take the throne. I am a person responsible for sustainable development and the world has to change. Charles has been beating this drum for years” —Wayne McCance, Hampshire, England

“With his passing, what will be the course for Britain? And what about its traditions that hold a country together, give it meaning, purpose and the will of its people? — Beatrice, New York

Thanks to all the readers who shared their views. If you have any thoughts on this newsletter, please reply or email [email protected]

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