FirstFT: Sunak to keep part of windfall cash

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Rishi Sunak is planning to set aside a large part of a windfall in UK public finances this year, risking a backlash from Tory MPs who want the chancellor to use all funds available to cushion the cost of living crisis.

The official forecasts in the Spring Statement will show the deficit is at least £ 20bn better than expected this year, but Sunak will use only some of the money to help households facing soaring gas, electricity and fuel bills.

Sunak will instead highlight the importance of “more resilient public finances” as he worries about a surge in the cost of servicing government debt instead of spending the entire windfall.

His speech will focus on “security” as he offers Britain’s “unwavering” support to Ukraine, with a promise to continue supplying weapons and aid to the war-stricken country. Here are five things to look out for today.

Should the chancellor apportion more funds to cut the cost of living for British families? Share your thoughts with us at firstft@ft.com and we may feature them in the newsletter. Here’s the rest of today’s news – Jennifer

Russia chokes major oil pipeline Up to 1mn barrels of crude oil shipped to global markets through a major pipeline could be cut for up to two months while repairs are made to storm-damaged loading facilities, the Kremlin’s deputy energy minister said yesterday, raising fears that Moscow was prepared to retaliate against western sanctions by curbing supplies.

The war in Ukraine:

Alexei Navalny handed nine-year jail term A Russian court sentenced President Vladimir Putin’s most prominent opponent to nine years in a maximum-security prison yesterday after finding him guilty of fraud and contempt, charges he alleged were politically motivated.

JPMorgan chief spending plan criticism Jamie Dimon is facing rare investor criticism over a multibillion-dollar plan to modernize the group’s technology and to enter the UK’s competitive retail-banking market.

No survivors found from Boeing 737 crash in China Hopes of finding survivors among the 132 people on board the Boeing 737 that crashed on Monday are fading fast as investigations are launched into the country’s worst air disaster in more than two decades.

Rescuers conduct search operations at the site of the crash in Tengxian county in southern China

Rescuers conduct search operations at the site of the crash in Tengxian county in southern China © AP

5. Fifa adds Crypto.com as World Cup sponsor Football’s international governing body has agreed a World Cup sponsorship deal with Crypto.com, people familiar with the matter said, giving the fast-growing cryptocurrency platform marketing rights to the sport’s largest tournament.

Coronavirus digest

  • A fourth vaccine dose offers protection for elderly people and those with health problems, a body of research suggests, but experts have found a lack of evidence to support rolling out a fresh round of jabs more broadly.

  • The government has changed its guidance for people in England trying to order free lateral flow tests more than a week earlier than planned.

The day ahead

Economic data The UK’s February PPI and CPI data are out, as is the Office for National Statistics’ house price index and the Office for Budget Responsibility’s economic and fiscal outlook. Separately, the EU will unveil flash monthly consumer confidence data while South Africa will release February consumer price index figures.

Volodymyr Zelensky addresses French lawmakers Ukraine’s president is set to deliver a speech, as he did with US and German government officials last week, shortly after speaking with Japan’s parliament. (Politico, Reuters)

Join us on April 7 for our Energy Source Live Summit, when we will take a deep dive into the issues set to reshape the US energy industry in the years to come. Register here.

What else we’re reading and listening to

Wirecard: the case against Markus Braun The former chief executive of the payments company that went bust with debts of € 3bn has swapped his life as a paper billionaire and is now facing fraud charges and the possibility of up to 15 years in prison. But his case is not clear cut.

Leftist aims to upset France’s apple cart Jean-Luc Mélenchon, the far-left presidential candidate, is rising in the polls and hopes to make it to the presidential run-off round. And he might yet surprise pollsters.

The yield curve might be wrong And we’d better hope so, writes Rob Armstrong in his Unhedged newsletter, since the yield curve shows some troubling signs. The worry is that returning to normal as the Federal Reserve digs in for a fight against inflation might trigger a recession.

German village looks beyond Nord Stream 2 An $ 11bn effort to take gas 1,200km from Russia to Europe ends at the German village of Lubmin. A local embarrassment, the pipeline is emblematic of the country’s need to extricate itself from decades of economic engagement with Moscow.

Is gold the safest place to invest? Gold is seen as a “haven investment” during volatile times. It will come as no surprise that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and rising global inflation have caused a jump in its price. But how do you invest in the metal? FT consumer editor Claer Barrett explains.

Books

Leah Quinn’s list of the five best works of fiction about Ukraine covers everything from a ragtag group of alcoholic teenagers to the lives of women in the Donbas region, as well as Fieldwork in Ukrainian Sexdubbed “the most influential Ukrainian book [since] independence ”.

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