Companies are preparing to launch a record wave of share buybacks as executives get comfortable with spending excess cash following a blockbuster earnings season and greater clarity on the trajectory of the world economy.

US companies announced $484bn in buybacks in the first four months of this year, the highest such total in at least two decades, according to Goldman Sachs, in what its analysts dubbed a “buyback bonanza”.

The figure foreshadows a big acceleration in the pace of buybacks, which have already begun to rebound from last year when the coronavirus pandemic encouraged companies to hoard cash for a potential long downturn.

Goldman projected share repurchases by US companies would increase 35 per cent this year from 2020.

The pace in Europe appears to be lagging the US, but Société Générale predicted that buybacks on the continent could eclipse their pre-pandemic levels next year by some 25 per cent.

Column chart of Year-over-year earnings growth (%) showing Earnings growth bounces back on both sides of the Atlantic, and rebound is forecast to continue

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Israel and Hamas clash threatens to spiral into ‘all-out war’ Hamas and Israel kept up a deadly barrage of rocket launches and air strikes on Tuesday night, with a UN envoy warning the conflict risked spiralling into “all-out war”. At least five were killed in Israel and at least 35 in Gaza, including 10 children. Far-right groups in Israel are endangering the country’s security, writes David Gardner.

Fed governor says inflation risks are ‘transitory’ Lael Brainard, a Fed governor, on Tuesday dismissed inflation risks and highlighted “uneven” improvements in the labour market as she called on the US central bank to be “patient” in pursuing its ultra-loose monetary policy.

US petrol stations emptied by panic buying More than 40 per cent of petrol stations in Atlanta, Georgia were left without petrol late on Tuesday, as were 61 per cent in Wilmington, North Carolina and 37 per cent in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina as the shutdown of the Colonial pipeline stretched into its fifth day.

Billionaires back new $10bn crypto exchange Peter Thiel, Louis Bacon and Alan Howard are among the backers of a new cryptocurrency asset exchange that will bet heavily on decentralised finance — or DeFi — that is radically shaping trading and investment in digital assets.

SoftBank reports record net profit SoftBank has reported the highest annual net profit for a Japanese company thanks to a rise in the valuations of its investments. However, a sell-off in US technology stocks since March eroded gains from its investments in the current quarter.

Canada maintains lead attracting tech talent Canadian cities were turned into some of North America’s fastest growing tech hubs when Donald Trump tightened restrictions on visas for foreign workers. Many of those temporary workers have now been given the opportunity to become permanent residents. Canada ‘will come roaring back’ from the pandemic, the country’s finance minister tells the FT in a special report.

Greensill faces UK regulator’s investigation UK financial regulator the Financial Conduct Authority is “formally investigating” Greensill Capital as documents released by a parliamentary committee revealed previously unseen lobbying by former prime minister David Cameron.

Spending talks President Joe Biden will host all four congressional leaders — two Democrats and two Republicans — at the White House to begin to hammer out an agreement on his spending plans.

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Earnings Bumble Holdings, which owns Bumble and the Europe-centric dating app Badoo and went public earlier this year with a $13bn valuation, publishes maiden results.

Republican leadership vote Liz Cheney, the number-three Republican in the House, is expected to be ousted from the party’s leadership after she repudiated former US president Donald Trump’s election claims.

Can facial recognition detect emotions? Hundreds of firms around the world are working on emotion-decoding algorithms to teach computers how to predict human behaviour. The technology is a natural evolution of facial recognition. But for many scientists, there is little evidence it works. Play this game to see how companies want to profit from your emotions.

US democracy’s struggle for survival Joe Biden is playing for huge stakes: not just securing a strong post-pandemic economic recovery or restoring the US position in the world as an ally, but protecting the core of democracy — peaceful acceptance of electoral outcomes, writes Martin Wolf.

Dogecoin gives away the crypto game Dogecoin has been a joke from the outset. Yet while few are claiming the cryptocurrency will “democratise finance” or become “the global reserve currency”, it has hugely outperformed bitcoin. Jemima Kelly examines why.

Peloton’s uphill race The digital fitness company was a Covid-19 winner: revenue jumped 141 per cent in the first quarter and subscriptions more than doubled. But gyms have reopened in the UK and increased capacity in the US, while outdoor activities beckon and rival digital offerings proliferate. Brooke Masters asks, what’s next for Peloton?

FT business books: May edition From the science and data that can help nudge people into better habits to unleashing the power of mid-life women — this is our round-up of the month’s top business book titles, including the latest from behavioural scientist Katy Milkman and McKinsey-trained, former Best Buy chief executive Hubert Joly on leadership.

Could I borrow to invest? Accountant Peter knows that to grow a business, you have to take on debt. But can he apply the same logic to his personal finances? He speaks with Claer Barrett on exploring the risks of using debt to boost his assets, alongside FT columnist Jason Butler and European economics commentator Martin Sandbu.