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Joe Biden and Democratic leaders have reached a compromise on a deal that would limit who is eligible for $1,400 stimulus cheques, as lawmakers wrangle over the US president’s proposed $1.9tn economic relief package ahead of a vote in the upper chamber.

The House of Representatives, which is controlled by Democrats, last week passed the sweeping coronavirus relief bill, which includes $1,400 direct payments, an extension of federal top-ups to unemployment insurance, and $350bn for state and local governments.

But the bill — which Biden has made the centrepiece of his legislative agenda — is now being pored over by the Senate, which has a 50-50 balance between Democrats and Republicans, with Kamala Harris, the vice-president, able to cast a tiebreaking vote.

Several moderate Democrats, including Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, have argued that the bill — which would be the second-largest stimulus package in US history — needs to be more “targeted”.

Biden on Wednesday agreed to a proposal from moderate Democrats that would phase out the $1,400 cheques at a faster rate than the White House originally intended, according to a Democratic source. (FT)

Coronavirus digest

  • T-cell responses in patients who had been vaccinated or previously infected by Covid-19 were just as strong when faced with new variants of the disease, according to the latest research.

  • The Covid-19 vaccine developed by India’s Bharat Biotech has been shown to have 81% efficacy in phase 3 trials, interim results showed.

  • One dose of Covid-19 vaccines produced by BioNTech/Pfizer and Oxford/AstraZeneca prevents hospital admissions in the over 80s, a UK study has found.

  • Police in China and South Africa have seized thousands of doses of fake Covid-19 vaccines and made more than 80 arrests.

  • France’s vaccination campaign has come under heavy fire for its slow progress as the country teeters on the brink of reimposing lockdowns.

  • The scale of deaths among Israel’s ultra-Orthodox Haredi has brought the community to a moment of crisis. (FT)

Chart showing that case rates among the ultra-Orthodox Haredi Jewish population have soared high above other groups, as community leaders frequently advised actions in direct contradiction of social distancing guidelines

Follow our live coronavirus coverage.

In the news

Rishi Sunak delivers spend now, tax later Budget The UK chancellor delivered a second Budget to kickstart Britain’s economic recovery from coronavirus with a boost to business investment followed by the largest tax rises on companies and households for a generation. Read his full speech here. (FT)

Rishi Sunak is the first chancellor to raise corporation tax rates since Labour’s Denis Healey in 1974 © Reuters

Blinken disavows ‘costly military interventions’ The Biden administration will seek to draw a line under a history of “costly military interventions” and policies aimed at regime change in other countries, according to a speech from America’s top diplomat. (FT)

Greensill faces a criminal complaint Germany’s financial watchdog BaFin has filed a criminal complaint against Greensill Bank’s management for suspected balance sheet manipulation. The move comes as its parent company plans to file for insolvency in the UK. (FT)

Nicola Sturgeon rejects claims she misled Scottish parliament Scotland’s first minister rejected accusations from her predecessor Alex Salmond that she misled the Edinburgh parliament. Sturgeon’s eight-hour grilling in front of a committee marked a potentially pivotal moment for her and her dream of leading Scotland to independence from the UK. (FT)

Facebook lifts ban on US political advertising The social media company will remove a ban on political advertising imposed after the US election to curb the spread of misinformation, and has pledged to investigate whether its political ads systems need a further overhaul. (FT)

Oscar Health falls in IPO debut The health insurance company co-founded by Joshua Kushner slipped in its Wall Street debut after raising $1.4bn in its initial public offering. The New York-based company opened at $36 a share on Wednesday, after pricing at $39 the previous evening. (FT)

Pakistan’s finance minister ousted Abdul Hafeez Shaikh, a respected economist and former world bank official who led the country’s negotiations with the IMF for a $6bn loan, was defeated in a Senate seat contest in a major political setback for prime minister Imran Khan. (FT)

The day ahead

Jay Powell discusses US economy The Federal Reserve chairman will be closely followed when he speaks about the state of the American economy before the virtual Wall Street Journal Jobs Summit on Thursday. (WSJ)

Eurozone, unemployment rate Economists are expecting that restrictions to contain the coronavirus pandemic will drag the eurozone into a double-dip recession. The latest unemployment figures are out on Thursday. (FT)

What else we’re reading

The great property reckoning that never seems to arrive The expectation among New York’s real estate executives was that many would call time on delinquent borrowers after months of pandemic forbearance and a decade-long rally that has bequeathed plenty of questionable projects. But a strange thing has happened: creditors have broadly held fast, creating an almost year-long period of leniency for some borrowers. (FT)

Distressed property sales are still a small segment of overall US deals, by property type, Q4 2020

Treasury bond wobble The severity of last week’s US government bond sell-off has rekindled concerns about the health of the $21tn debt market, the world’s largest and most important, adding urgency to regulators’ efforts to address cracks that have emerged. Most investors “just aren’t prepared” for surging bond yields, according to Cole Smead, president of Smead Capital Management. (FT, CNBC)

Outlook for US airlines remains cloudy Congress looks poised to extend another $15bn in aid to beleaguered US airlines — a reprieve for employees, but one that raises questions about the industry’s final destination. “It seems like the system is a little bit on autopilot,” says one industry consultant. (FT)

Bitcoin 1.0: the ancient stone money of Yap To better understand bitcoin, a pair of researchers are studying an ancient stone money system that once existed on the Micronesian island of Yap, where local communities would treat large limestone discs as a medium of exchange.

The curious appeal of Birkenstocks On men or women, it is hard to imagine a shoe less conducive to sexual attraction, or any other kind of attraction. To Robert Armstrong, the orthopaedic sandals are like regular bowel movements: healthful and comfortable, but utterly without charm.

Birkenstock has played its cards deftly, varying styles and colour enough to prevent obsolescence while keeping the clunky soul of the shoes intact

Video of the day

Eco-friendly vineyards, the New Zealand way New Zealand’s wine industry was the first in the world to have a national sustainability programme and more than 96 per cent of its vineyards operate according to specific environmental standards. One vineyard has even managed to reduce its waste to less than that of a typical domestic household. (FT)

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