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Volatile financial markets and muted US inflation are bolstering arguments within the Federal Reserve to take more time before increasing interest rates further, according to minutes from last month’s policy meeting.

The US central bank lifted rates by another quarter-point during the meeting, and participants generally agreed that “some” further rises would be merited in future. But given violent moves in stock and bond markets and rising worries about global growth, policymakers judged that the extent and timing of future moves had become less clear.

“Against this backdrop, many participants expressed the view that, especially in an environment of muted inflation pressures, the committee could afford to be patient about further policy firming,” the minutes of the meeting held on December 18-19 said. (FT)

In the news

US pushes China to keep trade promisesMid-level trade officials concluded three days of trade talks on Wednesday with a cautious sense of optimism, prompting global markets to move higher. Beijing has reportedly committed to buying more US agricultural goods, energy and manufactured items, but the Trump administration did not immediately confirm any agreement. (Bloomberg, FT)

Apple recruits prominent Facebook security critic Sandy Parakilas, who gave damning evidence about Facebook’s data protection practices to the UK parliament committee reviewing the Cambridge Analytica scandal, has been hired by Apple. The move marks the latest attempt by the tech group to differentiate itself from its peers when it comes to privacy. (FT)

Rod Rosenstein set to leave US justice department The US deputy attorney-general is expected to leave following the confirmation of William Barr, Donald Trump’s new pick for attorney-general. Mr Rosenstein had been charged with overseeing the Russia investigation by Robert Mueller, who on Tuesday accused Paul Manafort, Mr Trump’s former campaign manager, of lying about sharing 2016 election data with someone with ties to Russian intelligence. (FT)

Brexit ‘plan B’ British MPs voted 308 to 297 on an amendment that will give UK prime minister Theresa May just three sitting days to present an alternative deal if parliament votes against her plan next Tuesday. Previously, Mrs May would have had three weeks to come up with another Brexit plan. The defeat is the latest example of MPs seeking to tie the government’s hands over Brexit, with less than three months to go before Britain’s scheduled exit from the EU on March 29. (FT)

Reshuffle at BlackRock CEO Larry Fink promoted current head of index investing Mark Wiedman to a new international role. Wiedman will oversee international operations, corporate strategy and marketing. The change positions the executive as a likely heir-apparent to run the world’s biggest asset manager. (FT)

Saudis seek buyers for new dollar bonds The country is tapping international investors with a new set of debt, becoming the highest profile entrant to the bond market for the opening days of the year with its first issue since the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. (FT)

France to forge ahead with reforms Despite the ‘gilets jaunes’ protests, France’s prime minister has vowed to push ahead with its economic reforms, which include a shake-up of the country’s complex pensions systems. It is the latest example of pressures European governments are facing amid the trend of political splintering across the continent. (FT)

Australia faces worst property market downturn in 35 years National house prices fell 1.3 per cent in December, the largest monthly fall since 1983. Morgan Stanley warned this week that the slump could torpedo the country into a recession, which it has not faced for a record 27 years. (FT)

For sale: analysts say housing prices are set for further steep declines © AFP

The day ahead

Nicolás Maduro to begin new term On Thursday the president of Venezuela will be sworn in for a second term after his first spell saw an exodus of Venezuelans escaping economic meltdown. (FT)

Shinzo Abe sets off for UK The Japanese prime minister is expected to urge his UK counterpart Theresa May to avoid a “no deal” exit from the EU on Thursday. His visit comes shortly after Japan’s decision to lift its 23-year ban on British beef imports. (FT)

Keep up with the important business, economic and political stories in the coming days with the FT’s Week Ahead. And don’t miss our FT News Briefing audio show — a daily rundown of the top global stories.

What we’re reading

Volatility: how ‘algos’ changed the rhythm of the market Philippe Jabre was the quintessential swashbuckling trader. But in December he fell on his sword, closing Jabre Capital after racking up huge losses. The fault, he said, was machines. He is not alone. (FT)

Nissan saga makes ‘Japan Inc’ look more of a myth Leo Lewis argues that Carlos Ghosn’s downfall is playing out as an embarrassing reminder that Japan Inc has largely ceased functioning the way everyone likes to imagine it does. The symbiotic entwinement of state and big business has often failed to protect its own. (FT)

US government shutdown continues President Donald Trump used a rare national address to warn of a “growing humanitarian and security crisis” at the southern US border, but stopped short of declaring a national emergency — a move that could have prompted litigation and a backlash from Congress. The US president appears to be flailing, writes Janan Ganesh, but his stamp on history will be large. (FT)

Saudi teen considered for resettlement in Australia Canberra said on Wednesday it would consider admitting a Saudi teenager for refugee resettlement in the country after she fled from her family saying she feared for her life. Her story made headlines earlier this week when she broadcasted her plight on Twitter and barricaded herself in a Bangkok airport hotel room. (FT)

Chevron and Occidental invest in CO2 removal technology The two oil majors have taken a minority stake in a Bill Gates-backed Canadian start-up, which has developed technologies to make a synthetic fuel by sucking carbon dioxide directly from the atmosphere. (FT)

Why Donald Trump lies: a psychoanalyst’s theory We all lie, but we do not lie like President Trump. He is the most extravagant, reckless, inexhaustible fibber of our era — the panjandrum of porky pies, says Stephen Grosz. Because we all lie, we may be tempted to think we understand why Mr Trump does, or even that he lies for the same reasons we do. He does not. (FT)

CES speed test — blink and you will miss it The envy in the audience at the CES tech fair was palpable, writes Chris Nuttall. He watched as Clayton Harris — the first customer to get Verizon’s 5G Home, the world’s first commercial 5G broadband internet service — ran a speed test that topped 690 megabits a second. Read about 5G, IBM’s quantum leap and the gadgets on show in our day three report from Las Vegas here. (FT)

Why China is determined to connect south-east Asia by rail Beijing’s plans for a 3,000km rail network has raised debt and sovereignty concerns. But despite the criticism, economists say Chinese-backed infrastructure projects will carry on. Asia needs the investment and covets access to the Chinese market. (Nikkei Asian Review)

AOC dances her way into DC She has been a freshman member for Congress for under a week, yet already has more Twitter followers than the Speaker and minority leader of the US House of Representatives combined. Courtney Weaver on how Washington is deep in the throes of an Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez moment. (FT)

Podcast of the day

China’s Didi adds finance to the mix In 2017, the Chinese ride-hailing app was the highest valued start-up in the world at $56bn. But after a difficult period in 2018 following the murder of two passengers on its platform and a government crackdown, Didi has made a move to diversify by offering financial services. The FT’s Yuan Tang reports for Behind the Money. Listen on, iTunes or Stitcher. (FT)

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