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Online brokers clamped down on retail investors’ bets on several highly popular but volatile stocks on Thursday, locking traders out of the market and drawing sharp criticism from some users and politicians.
Large US brokers, including Schwab and Robinhood, curbed trading in shares of companies including GameStop, AMC and BlackBerry.
The brokers’ interventions triggered a furious backlash. One Robinhood customer filed a class-action lawsuit in federal court, saying the company “has completely blocked retailer investors from purchasing [GameStop] for no legitimate reason” and alleging the user “like so many others, lost out on all earning opportunities”.
As the broader US market rebounded from its worst day since October, GameStop shares tumbled 44 per cent at the end of US trading, its first drop in six days, before rising more than 60 per cent after hours.
Robinhood meanwhile scrambled to shore up its financial position, drawing down at least several hundred million dollars via a credit facility with banks led by JPMorgan.
The frenzied battle between amateur investors and professionals has led hedge funds to scale back the size of their bets, as trading volumes on Wall Street exceeded the peak set at the height of the financial crisis in 2008.
Hedge fund Melvin Capital was forced into a rescue package from other investors after the unprecedented assault crushed its bet against GameStop. Others feared falling into the same trap, and turned to foul-mouthed online message boards instead of companies’ earnings reports in an effort to stay ahead of day traders.
How did we get here? Mamta Badkar explains how GameStop was dragged into the war on Wall Street. But the phenomenon is not a revolution, Jamie Powell argues. Recap the developments in our markets blog. (FT)
Keep up to date with the vaccine rollout with our recently launched tracker and live blog.
UK PM says independence vote ‘irrelevant’ to Scots Boris Johnson on Thursday insisted Scotland should not have a second independence referendum for at least a generation, saying such a vote was “completely irrelevant” to the concerns of most Scots despite opinion polls suggesting that the majority of voters would back leaving the UK. The FT View is that unionists face an existential battle. (FT)
UK seeks to end EU envoy row British officials have warned that “upping the ante” in the dispute over the status of the EU representation in London would “not lead to a better solution”. But behind the scenes, both sides are trying to resolve the row. (FT)
GM aims to end petrol and diesel sales by 2035 General Motors on Thursday became the first of the world’s biggest carmakers to set a deadline for its final sales of passenger vehicles powered by internal combustion engines. (FT)
Samsung warns chip shortage could hit smartphones The world’s largest memory chipmaker said a global semiconductor shortage that has hindered global carmakers could also disrupt orders for the chips used in smartphones, as manufacturers rushed to respond to the crisis. (FT)
Exclusive: SoftBank executives eye $1bn gains Four top SoftBank executives, including Rajeev Misra and Marcelo Claure, are sitting on a potential collective gain of as much as $1.2bn after receiving unusual loans from the company last year to buy its shares. (FT)
Biden suspends Gulf arms sales The White House has suspended arms sales agreed by Donald Trump to Gulf allies Saudi Arabia and the UAE. It is the first significant move by President Joe Biden to reset US relations with Sunni Arab regimes heavily courted by his predecessor. (FT)
2020’s worst-selling fund manager California-based asset manager Franklin Templeton has been named the world’s worst-selling retail fund manager for 2020 after investors pulled almost $50bn from the US group, which has suffered more than half a decade of heavy redemptions. (FT)
Hongkongers granted UK residence The UK will formally open a new route to citizenship for up to 3m Hong Kong residents from Sunday as the Home Office revealed it had already allowed 7,000 people from the former British colony to settle ahead of the scheme’s launch. (FT)
EU Covid vaccines The EU will propose empowering governments to block exports of vaccines, forcing pharmaceutical companies to seek authorisation before shipping jabs out of the bloc. The European Medicines Agency is also expected to reach a long-awaited decision on the approval of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine. (FT)
Biden immigration orders The US president was expected to sign executive orders on Friday that will address asylum at the US-Mexico border, refugee resettlement and the reunification of migrant families, but they may be delayed until next week. (Reuters, CNN)
Earnings round-up Companies reporting on Friday include Caterpillar, Charter Communications, Chevron; Colgate-Palmolive, Eli Lilly, H&M, Honeywell International, L3Harris Technologies, Roper Industries and SAP. JD Sports reports full-year results on Saturday. (FT, FENS)
Economic data France, Germany and Spain have flash gross domestic product growth figures for the fourth quarter out on Friday. US consumer spending is expected to decline for the second month after a rise in coronavirus cases. (FT, WSJ)
Wall Street’s new mantra: green is good To most people outside Wall Street, climate change is an existential or moral issue, not a financial one. And fiduciary duty rules in America demand that asset managers focus only on delivering customer returns. But tackling climate change offers a chance to fuel future profits. Is it a turning point?
Revolut: bitcoin hype-merchant or bank? The fintech appears to have lost its way in the unicorn forest, writes Jemima Kelly. But if Revolut really wants to be taken seriously as a bank, it needs to start behaving like one. (FT)
How close is the light at the end of the Covid tunnel? Nearly three months after the announcement of a Covid-19 vaccine, hospitals are overwhelmed and the global death toll is climbing twice as fast as in the worst days of the first wave, writes Tim Harford. Will it ever end?
Sports leagues should join forces with streamers There are ways to make streaming live sport a viable business, argues Alex Barker. Netflix, for example, could buy a league or just create one from scratch. (FT)
The world’s nuclear upsurge Nine countries possess nuclear arms, while another thirty-one have flirted with the weapons at one time or another. But the battle to stop the world’s deadliest weapon from proliferating is getting harder. (Economist)
How cities are tackling climate change The FT spoke with four city leaders and asked them to explain what they are doing to tackle climate change: from replanting in Los Angeles to increasing water table levels in Mumbai, and greening open spaces in Accra to promoting “active travel” in Paris. (FT)