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The chief executives of Amazon, Facebook, Apple and Alphabet were told on Wednesday their companies had “too much power” and that they behaved like “cyber barons” in an unprecedented and at times uncomfortable grilling from US lawmakers.

Among the most damning revelations in the six-hour hearing was a 2012 email in which Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg acknowledged that he planned to acquire photo app Instagram in order to “neutralise” it.

There were also uncomfortable moments for the heads of Amazon, Apple and Alphabet too, from a trove of newly unearthed internal documents that showed how the companies chased dominance and then sought to protect it.

“Many of the practices used by these companies have harmful economic effects. They discourage entrepreneurship, destroy jobs, raise costs and degrade quality,” said David Cicilline, Democratic chair of the antitrust subcommittee of the House judiciary committee.

His committee has been investigating the market power of Big Tech for more than a year and is set to publish a final report that may inform new antitrust legislation.

There were also some scenes familiar to anyone who has been working from home throughout the pandemic.

At one point the founder of Amazon began speaking, but the committee had to nudge him: “Mr Bezos, I believe you’re on mute.”

Coronavirus digest

  • The chairman of the Federal Reserve expressed fears that recent increases in Covid-19 infections across many US states had started to hit the economy. The US central bank also extended measures to deal with the risk of an international dollar shortage. Stocks are lower today.

  • Texas has become the fourth US state to confirm more than 400,000 coronavirus cases as the overall death toll increased at its fastest pace in weeks on Wednesday. Lawmakers, meanwhile, remain “far apart” on new stimulus as jobless benefits expire on Friday.

  • Germany’s economy shrank at the fastest pace in at least half a century in the second quarter of 2020. The country tightened abattoir regulations on Wednesday following outbreaks. The EU is set to drop Algeria from its travel safe list — which still excludes the US.

  • Russia plans to register the world’s first Covid-19 vaccine in August, while Kodak shares surged nearly 1,500 per cent after being thrown a financial lifeline so it could make ingredients for drugs used to fight coronavirus. (FT, WSJ. Reuters)

The FT has launched a global economic recovery tracker to provide a first snapshot of activity across key sectors. Follow our live coverage here.

Line chart of Market capitalisation ($bn) showing Kodak's value rises nearly 15-fold in two days

In the news

US to pull troops out of Germany The Trump administration will begin pulling almost 12,000 US troops out of Germany within “weeks”, Mark Esper, defence secretary, said. The move is set to inflame tensions within Nato. (FT)

Joe Biden nears a choice for running mate Beyond a promise to choose a woman for his running mate, Joe Biden has given little away as to who his choice will be. But a note scribbled in the former vice-president’s hand and captured this week on camera may have confirmed the long-held suspicion that he will go with Kamala Harris. (FT)

Joe Biden’s handwritten notes spotted this week have set off a fresh round of speculation about his running mate pick © Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/AFP

Where do Mr Trump and Mr Biden stand? Follow our poll tracker here.

Aviation market warning David Calhoun, chief executive of Boeing, said the pandemic’s impact on aviation continued to be “severe”. He said Boeing would “further assess” the size of its workforce as the ramp up for the grounded Max aircraft would be slower than expected. Rival Airbus on Thursday reported a loss for the first half.

TikTok chief launches attack on Facebook Chief executive Kevin Mayer accused Facebook of smearing TikTok and described forthcoming Instagram Reels as a “copycat product”. But even a possible sale of the Chinese-owned, viral-video app has not reassured Republicans. (FT, WSJ)

Move to pull agents out of Portland Federal agents will begin a “phased withdrawal” from Portland, Oregon, the homeland security department said. Here’s a fact-check of attorney-general William Barr’s testimony to Congress this week that covers the protests, police shootings and coronavirus. (FT, NYT)

Credit Suisse launches restructuring The Swiss bank announced a new investment banking division, combining its previous global markets, investment banking and capital markets, and Asia-Pacific markets business lines. New chief executive Thomas Gottstein said the bank hoped to save SFr400m a year from the reshuffle by 2022. (FT)

Exclusive: Loan from middleman charged in Vatican’s property ‘scandal’ revealed A UK-based businessman charged with fraud for his role in brokering the Vatican’s purchase of a luxury London building provided a loan to the seller of the property months before the real estate deal took place. (FT)

A Rome branch of Banca Carige, which underwent a rescue backed by Italy’s deposit guarantee fund © Alessia Pierdomenico/Bloomberg

Scholz defends handling of Wirecard debacle Olaf Scholz, Germany’s finance minister, insisted in closed-door hearings on Wednesday that authorities had done all in their power to uncover irregularities at Wirecard. Germany asked Russia for help locating fugitive Wirecard executive Jan Marsalek. (FT, WSJ)

Mystery over origin of Stonehenge megaliths solved Scientists have determined that many of the sandstone megaliths erected at Stonehenge around 2500BC were sourced about 15 miles away in Wiltshire, at a site called West Woods. (Reuters)

The day ahead

US GDP The US economy is expected to post its biggest quarterly fall since the second world war, with analysts forecasting a 35 per cent drop. Weekly jobless claims are set to remain near last week’s 1.4m. (FT)

Tech earnings Apple, Amazon, Alphabet and Facebook, worth almost $5tn combined, all report quarterly results on Thursday. Weaker consumer spending will weigh on Apple while Alphabet is set to suffer from advertising declines, but Facebook and Amazon are expected to post revenue rises. (FT)

Pompeo’s Senate hearing US secretary of state Mike Pompeo will face accusations of departmental politicisation and bullying as he appears in front of the Senate foreign relations committee. There is also a confirmation hearing for Anthony Tata, the Trump’s administration’s pick to be the Pentagon’s policy chief. (FT, Politico)

Mission to Mars Nasa’s Mars 2020 Perseverance rover is set to launch shortly before 8am EDT on Thursday from Florida. Watch it here. (Nasa)

In yesterday’s FirstFT we incorrectly stated that the price of AstraZeneca’s potential vaccine would be higher than Moderna’s vaccine. It will in fact be lower. We apologise for the error.

What else we’re reading

Private equity gags on its own medicine in debt battles Amid a wave of coronavirus-prompted corporate restructurings, private equity firms long seen as aggressive interlopers are appealing to courts about the behaviour of rival creditors. (FT)

Buyout roups such as Apollo are complaining in court about aggressive tactics from other creditors © FT montage; Bloomberg; Getty Images

A coronavirus vaccine could split America In the battle between public science and anti-vaxxer sentiment, science is heavily outgunned, writes Edward Luce. It faces a rainbow coalition of metastasising folk suspicions on both the left and the right. (FT)

The contrasting world views of Trump and Pompeo The US president and his secretary of state have radically different world views, Janan Ganesh writes — Donald Trump is transactional while Mike Pompeo moralises. (FT)

A cold war does not answer China’s challenge Beijing has grand ambitions to replace the US as the world’s most powerful nation. But to paraphrase George Kennan, it is not seeking the global defeat of capitalism, Philip Stephens writes. Speculators have found a new tool to pressure Beijing: antique debt. (FT)

Guarding the west’s interests and values should not mean an ideological confrontation with Beijing © Ingram Pinn/Financial Times

Will Covid-19 tame China’s wildlife trade? China’s illegal wildlife trade has come under global scrutiny over the origins of the Covid-19 pandemic. The government has responded sharply — but will the prohibition on trading exotic species be permanent? (FT)

‘Motherhood penalty’ made worse by pandemic’s effects New data show women were more likely to face job losses during the pandemic and to bear the brunt of childcare, writes Lucy Warwick-Ching. Jo Ellison reflects on the viral #challengeaccepted and finds it promotes little more than vanity. (FT)

How safe is it to fly? As airlines rush to return to the skies, the industry must restore travellers’ confidence that flying is not as risky as it seems. Michael Skapinker hails the end of the jumbo jet era with dry eyes for Boeing’s 747 and appreciation for the Airbus A380. (FT)

First-class passengers in a Boeing 747 jumbo jet are served lunch © Getty Images

The world’s largest jetliner, the Boeing 747, rolled out for public view in Washington, 1968 © Bettmann Archive

Business schools reckon with poor record on race In the wake of the recent Black Lives Matter protests worldwide, the momentum for reform of higher education has sped up. The movement, which started in theological seminaries, has now spread to business schools. (FT)

Best business books of the month From achieving “unreasonable” success to how music jamming sessions can aid workplace inclusion — here are this month’s top titles. Also, the best six films to watch this week. (FT)

FT300: Financial advisers Coronavirus has proven a boon to financial advisers, who are discarding the 2008 crisis playbook as markets begin to recover. Here’s the FT’s annual list of the top 300 US investment advisers by state — has yours made the cut? Read more in our special report. Also, we are now accepting submissions for the FT North America Innovative Lawyers 2020 awards. (FT)

Podcast of the day

How is the pandemic changing the US labour market? Rana Foroohar, the FT’s global business columnist, is standing in for Gideon Rachman this week. She is joined by economist William Spriggs to discuss the US labour market as well as monopoly power and the role of big data in the economy. (FT)

Thank you for reading. Send your recommendations and feedback to firstft@ft.com

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