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Businesses have complained to ministers that they have been locked out of a £4.6bn emergency Covid-19 grant scheme after a decision to stick with certain EU state-aid rules, even though Britain has left the trading bloc.

Last year, the UK government agreed that individual companies would not receive more than €4m each in grants to deal with the coronavirus crisis after signing up to the European Commission’s “state-aid temporary framework”.

The emergency measures initially allowed EU member states to give grants of up to €800,000 to struggling companies before the cap was lifted to €4m.

But some large British companies, including retailers, have reached the limit from grants used last year, leaving jobs hanging in the balance during an indefinite period of forced closure under the national lockdown.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak, meanwhile, has told Conservative MPs he wants to use his March Budget, which is expected to include a multibillion-pound increase in corporation tax, to start restoring order to public finances. (FT)

Line chart of Public sector net borrowing, sum over previous 12 months (£bn) showing UK government borrowing in 2020-21 may exceed £400bn

Unequal vaccine access will return to haunt the rich, writes David Pilling.

ECB details bond-buying shift The European Central Bank will decide how much to spend on its emergency bond-buying programme by checking if bank lending rates, corporate credit conditions and government bond yields are favourable enough to boost demand and inflation. The ECB and the Bank of Japan both kept monetary policy on hold.

Exclusive: Intel hacked Intel said it was the victim of a hacker who stole financially sensitive information from its corporate website on Thursday, prompting the US chipmaker to release its earnings statement ahead of schedule. Subscribe here to the #techFT newsletter. (FT)

UK warned to improve image The UK must be seen as “stable and strategic” to reinforce business confidence and London’s position as a leading financial centre after Brexit, according to a report commissioned by the City of London Corporation. Separately, Nissan is exploring new models at its Sunderland site, after its second-in-command said the Brexit deal had secured the future of Britain’s biggest car plant. (FT)

Biden delivers Covid warning Covid-19 will have killed 500,000 in the US by the end of next month, Joe Biden warned, as his administration pledged to join global vaccine efforts. The president has also ordered the use of wartime powers to increase supplies of items such as coronavirus tests and N95 masks. Nancy Pelosi said the House will be “completely ready” to pass the $1.9tn coronavirus relief bill by February 1, sending global shares to new heights.

Line chart of Rebased, % change over three months  showing Large-cap US stocks continue to set records

UK stands firm in EU envoy row The UK on Thursday showed no sign of changing tack after refusing to grant the EU embassy in London full diplomatic status — treating the mission as representing an “international organisation” rather than a sovereign country — a snub that former US president Donald Trump also inflicted on the bloc but later reversed. (FT)

Alibaba under pressure Relief over Jack Ma’s reappearance this week was shortlived: hours later, China’s central bank proposed new anti-monopoly rules that will hurt Alibaba’s payments affiliate, Ant Group. Alibaba shares fell nearly 3 per cent. (FT)

Amazon pandemic price rises stick Hundreds of the essential products that have come to define pandemic living have sustained significant price increases on Amazon this year, with some jumping to multiples of their original price. (FT)

IBM sales decline The company revealed its revenue decline accelerated in the final quarter of last year to 6.5 per cent, a larger drop than projected, as its normal end-of-year consumer IT spending bounce proved weaker than expected. (FT)

Fifa fights ‘super league’ Fifa has sought to block the launch of a breakaway “super league”, as top clubs including Real Madrid and Manchester United ramp up talks over creating a competition that would radically alter the finances of the world’s most popular sport.

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Biden begins calls with foreign leaders Joe Biden will speak to Justin Trudeau, Canada’s prime minister, on Friday, before prioritising calls with other allies, according to Jen Psaki, White House press secretary. (FT)

Economic data US existing home sales for December are set to fall for the second month on Friday. Japan is publishes inflation for December. Surveys of purchasing managers are expected to reveal Europe’s dominant services sectors contracting. (WSJ)

Navalny supporters rally Russian police have detained supporters of jailed opposition activist Alexei Navalny and warned of more arrests if calls for protest marches on Saturday were circulated, as Moscow demanded social media companies delete posts about the rallies. (FT)

Portugal presidential election A presidential election is to take place in Portugal on Sunday. Incumbent Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa, who tested positive for coronavirus last week, is seeking a second term. (Politico)

How the Brexit deal was done, and what happens next As the year drew to a close, the Brexit denouement finally arrived. But the impact of Boris Johnson’s deal was already being felt in the real world. As businesses adapt, negotiators on both sides reveal what really happened. (FT)

A golden age of ignorance Has there been a moment in modern history where so many people in free societies have believed such damaging lies? The simplest explanation is: “There are idiots. Look around.” But while there is a certain visceral satisfaction in that explanation, there is much more going on, writes Tim Harford. (FT)

The US is back in the Paris climate accord. Now what? Rejoining the Paris deal was one of Joe Biden’s signature campaign pledges. But the move is just the start of a long journey to reform US climate policies, experts said. We answered your questions about the green transition. (FT)

Algorithm tug-of-war Lilah Raptopoulos writes that she is at war with algorithms, addicted to a network of companies that are financially incentivised to reinforce detected patterns, take what she already likes and give her more of the same. What is this process doing to our self-conception? What can we do about it? (FT)

What London’s falling population For the first time in 30 years, London’s population is declining. Since the outbreak of the pandemic, almost 700,000 foreign-born residents may have left the city. How will this affect rental and sale prices? Chris Giles argues that we need to know the effect of Covid-19 on the number of people in the UK. (FT)

How did stockpickers fare during Covid-19? After new year’s hangovers wear off, many take stock of the previous year to understand what went wrong and how they could have done better. Robert Smith tallied some FT scribes’ stock choices — and the winning reader entries. (FT)

Bar chart of Share price change (%) showing Big Tech dominated readers

Joe Biden’s inauguration — the view from Capitol Hill In his latest DC Diary video, Kiran Stacey says recent events made the new president’s call for unity sound revolutionary as Washington looks to the tone the Democrat is aiming to establish at the start of his term of office. (FT)