Germany European Central Bank

The European Central Bank is once again expected to leave interest rates and its quantitative easing programme unchanged following its governing council meeting. One of the big questions is whether the council will change its customary cautious tone on the economic outlook given that the meeting comes between the two rounds of the French presidential election. The biggest political risk is a win for Marine Le Pen in France although that looks unlikely given the showing of her rival Emmanuel Macron.

Key points

  • Policy announcement due at 12:45 BST; press conference starts at 13:30 BST
  • ECB main rate stands at 0.00%, deposit facility at -0.40%
  • QE bond buying programme runs till end of 2017

 Read more

FR_lepen_macron
  • Macron and Le Pen progress through to the second and final round
  • Macron tops the polls with 23.9 % of the vote; Le Pen secures 21.4%
  • Markets react positively as Macron is heavily tipped to become next French president
  • Take a look at the FT’s poll tracker
  • For further coverage of the French presidential elections click here

 

Holding image for blog

UK Prime Minister Theresa May has triggered Article 50, the process informing the EU of the UK’s intention to leave. Unless both sides agree to an extension, the notification will start a two-year period to agree a divorce deal before the bloc’s treaties cease to apply to Britain.

Key points

  • Theresa May tells MPs she has acted “on the democratic will of the British peoples”
  • European Council president Donald Tusk says “this is about damage control”
  • An annotated version of the Article 50 letter is here
  • Click here
    for an explainer on what happens next
  • For the FT’s indepth coverage visit our Brexit page

 

Palace of Westminster incident

An investigation is under way after four people died and around 40 were injured in an attack in Westminster in central London on Wednesday afternoon. The police have said they are treating the attack as terrorism. Join us for further developments and reaction.

Key points

  • Police name attacker as Kent-born Khalid Masood
  • The three victims named; 29 injured treated in hospital
  • Isis reportedly claims responsibility
  • Eight people arrested overnight in London, Birmingham and other parts of the UK
  • Authorities in Antwerp appear to have foiled a similar attack

 

Palace of Westminster incident

At least four people have died and 20 have been injured in an attack in Westminster in central London. The attacker drove a car into people on Westminster Bridge before entering the grounds of the Houses of Parliament. The man, armed with knives, then stabbed and killed a police officer before being shot dead.

Key points

  • Attacker drove a car across Westminster Bridge running down numerous people
  • The man then entered grounds of parliament and stabbed and killed a police officer
  • Attacker was shot dead by police
  • Two other people on the bridge also confirmed dead, at least 20 injured
  • Security lockdown as police cordon off area around parliament

 

House Intelligence Committee Hears Testimony From FBI Director James Comey

FBI director James Comey was questioned for more than six hours by the House intelligence committee on the bureau’s investigation into Russia’s attempts to interfere in last year’s US presidential election. He is testified alongside the NSA director, Admiral Michael Rogers.

Mr Comey, who came under fire during the election campaign for his handling of Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton’s email server probe, was also questioned about allegations that the Obama administration wiretapped Trump Tower.

Key Developments

  • The FBI director confirmed the agency is probing Russian meddling into the US election, including any potential links between the Trump campaign and the country’s government.
  • The FBI director said the agency has “no information that supports” tweets from Donald Trump accusing Barack Obama of wiretapping his campaign.
  • The NSA director said he agreed with the angry statement issued last Thursday by GCHQ, Britain’s electronic surveillance agency, in which it slammed the notion of its spying on its closest ally as “utterly ridiculous”.
  • In his opening statement, Michael Rogers said that the NSA stood by its earlier report on Russian meddling and its level of confidence in the findings had not changed.
  • In his opening statements, Republican committee chairman Devin Nunes reiterated his previous public statement that he has seen no evidence Trump Tower was wiretapped.
  • The Trump administration maintained its position on the allegation that he was put under surveillance as a candidate
  •  

    APTOPIX Germany European Central Bank

    The European Central Bank has left interest rates and its quantitative easing programme unchanged at its governing council meeting on Thursday. The decision came against a backdrop of inflation reaching the bank’s goal of just under 2 per cent for the first time since early 2013.

    Mario Draghi, ECB president, who was under pressure from the council’s hawks, stepped back from the prospect of more rate cuts.

    Key points

    • ECB main rate remains at 0.00%, deposit facility at -0.40%
    • QE bond buying programme continues till at least end of 2017
    • Monthly QE due to drop from €80bn to €60bn from April as previously announced
    • ECB keeps long-term inflation forecasts unchanged
    • Draghi says “no signs yet of a convincing upward trend in underlying inflation”
    • Draghi takes more hawkish tone on monetary policy

     

    Merkel’s surprise challenger from the left

    Martin Schulz, the new face of Germany’s Social Democratic Party, has surged in the polls to become a surprise challenger to chancellor Angela Merkel in September’s elections. Gideon Rachman discusses what this could mean for Germany with the FT’s Stefan Wagstyl and Guy Chazan in Berlin. Read more

    By Gideon Rachman

    After the fall of the Berlin Wall, there was a “democratic wave”. Political freedom spread from its traditional bastions in western Europe and the US — and countries as diverse as Poland, South Africa and Indonesia turned democratic. But now the process seems to have gone into reverse. An authoritarian wave that began outside the established democracies of the west has spread to the US and Europe.

    South Africa’s critical test

    This year, the African National Congress – which has governed South Africa since the end of apartheid – picks a new leader. But their embattled president, Jacob Zuma, will leave a legacy of scandal, corruption allegations and a sluggish economy. Gideon Rachman discusses the future of Africa’s largest economy with the FT’s Africa editor David Pilling, and South Africa correspondent Joseph Cotterill.

    By Gideon Rachman

    Donald Trump’s travails with his “Muslim ban” make it easy to dismiss the whole idea as an aberration that will swiftly be consigned to history by the judicial system and the court of public opinion. But that would be a misreading. The ban on migrants and refugees from seven mainly Muslim countries was put together clumsily and executed cruelly. But it responded to a hostility to Islam and a craving for security and cultural homogeneity that is finding adherents across the western world — and not just on the far right.

    The fate of the euro

    With economic growth reviving in the eurozone, is the euro crisis now over, or is this just a lull before another euro storm? Gideon Rachman puts the question to Claire Jones, FT correspondent in Frankfurt, and Martin Sandbu, economics commentator.

    Trump travel ban sparks global backlash

    Donald Trump’s controversial visa ban has led to chaos at airports and condemnation from abroad. What are the consequences – at home and overseas – of this unprecedented move by the new president? Daniel Dombey, the FT’s deputy world news editor, discusses the question with Washington bureau chief Demetri Sevastopulo and Erika Solomon, Middle East correspondent.

    By Gideon Rachman

    For the most ardent supporters of Brexit, the election of Donald Trump was a mixture of vindication and salvation. The president of the US, no less, thinks it is a great idea for Britain to leave the EU. Even better, he seems to offer an exciting escape route. The UK can leap off the rotting raft of the EU and on to the gleaming battleship HMS Anglosphere.

    France decides: battle for Élysée takes shape

    The list of contenders for France’s 2017 election will be finalised this week, as the socialists choose their candidate on Sunday. Gideon Rachman discusses what is set to be an unpredictable and closely fought battle for the presidency with Anne-Sylvaine Chassany, the FT’s Paris bureau chief, and former bureau chief Hugh Carnegy.

    By Gideon Rachman

    The man from the BBC was laughing as he reported the White House’s false claims about the size of the crowd at Donald Trump’s inauguration. He should have been crying. What we are witnessing is the destruction of the credibility of the American government.

    US-POLITICS-TRUMP-INAUGURATION-SWEARING IN

    Donald Trump has been sworn in as the 45th US president on Friday in a ceremony in Washington DC where he told the crowds in capital “the time of empty talking is over”. In a typically strident address, he declared: “America will start winning again like never before.”

    Key points

    • Trump delivers a short inaugural address promising to bring back jobs and “our borders”
    • The Obamas left Washington for a break in Palm Springs, California
    • An annotated version of Trump’s speech can be found here

    By Mark Odell and Emiliya Mychasuk

     

    Sign up to LatAm Viva by email every Friday.

    The moment has finally arrived. Today Donald Trump becomes the 45th president of the United States. Before too long, it will become clear just how much of the blustery rhetoric he directed towards Latin America, especially Mexico, should be taken seriously. Read more

    EPA

    The European Central Bank has left interest rates and its quantitative easing programme unchanged.

    Key points

    • ECB holds main rate at 0.00%, deposit facility at -0.40%
    • QE bond buying programme to continue until at least end of 2017
    • Level of QE to drop from €80bn to €60bn per month from April as previously announced
    • Press conference starts at 13:30 GMT

    By Gemma Tetlow and Elaine Moore

     

    Trade, Trump and Brexit

    This week, UK prime minister Theresa May laid out her plans for a ‘hard’ Brexit, as US president-elect Donald Trump expressed doubts about the EU’s future and promised a ‘quick’ US-UK trade deal. How feasible would such a deal be? And is the west retreating from a free trade model that has taken decades to roll out? Daniel Dombey, the FT’s Brexit editor, discusses with Brussels bureau chief Alex Barker and FT world trade editor Shawn Donnan.