FirstFT: Wealth managers call out risks of ESG backlash

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Good morning, and welcome to the new look FirstFT.

Today we start with a warning from some of Wall Street’s largest financial services companies that a backlash against sustainable investing is posing a material risk to their financial prospects.

And what role did the 1970s BBC political comedy Yes Minister have to play in breaking the deadlock over Northern Ireland? Scroll down for our behind-the-scenes read on the secret talks that led to the Windsor deal.

Here’s what to keep tabs on today:

  • Economic data: Manufacturing will be in the spotlight with the release of the Institute for Supply Management’s purchasing managers’ index. Separately, S&P releases its final reading of manufacturing PMI for February.

  • Results: Discount retailers Kohl’s and Dollar Tree report earnings as well as fashion stores Abercrombie & Fitch and American Eagle Outfitters. And as activists circle software group Salesforce it will update investors.

  • Tesla investor day: The electric-car maker is expected to provide more details of a plan to build a factory in the northern Mexican city of Monterrey at an investor day in Austin, Texas.

What do you think of our new look today? Let us know at [email protected].

Today’s top news

1. A dozen large fund managers including BlackRock, Blackstone and KKR, highlighted disputes in their annual reports over environmental, social and governance investing. They warned the backlash against sustainable investing is now a material risk.

2. Chinese factory activity expanded at its fastest pace in more than a decade in February. The data, published today by China’s National Bureau of Statistics, is an early indication of the country’s recovery following the end of strict Covid restrictions in December.

3. Goldman Sachs chief David Solomon admitted mistakes in an ill-fated foray into consumer banking and raised the possibility of selling parts of the business at an investor day that failed to lift the cloud over the US bank. Read the full story on the “strategic alternatives” Solomon is now exploring.

4. The Supreme Court’s conservative judges cast doubt on Joe Biden’s $400bn student loan relief programme. They questioned whether the president had the power to wipe student debt, a flagship policy of the Biden administration. Here’s more on yesterday’s oral arguments.

5. EXCLUSIVE: Jaguar Land Rover’s owner is demanding more than £500mn for a battery factory to be built in England over Spain and has given UK ministers “weeks” to pledge financial support. Here’s why Tata Motors’ ultimatum could be pivotal for the future of Britain’s car industry.

The Big Read

© FT montage/dpa

Central banks do not face a wage-price spiral yet, but the worry is that a year of rocketing prices may have triggered a lasting change in the expectations and behaviour of workers, employers and consumers. This could lead to something better described as “wage-price persistence”.

We’re also reading . . . 

Chart of the day

Vladimir Putin could reasonably conclude that he has time on his side and Ukraine will not get the resources it needs to win the war, writes Martin Wolf. The west has to prove he is wrong, and sooner rather than later.

Take a break from the news

Are you bored with your clothes? Do you feel rudderless when it comes to describing what your “style” is? Fashion columnist Anna Berkeley offers advice on how to get out of a style rut. For more, sign up to our Fashion Matters newsletter.

Additional contributions by Emily Goldberg and Tee Zhuo

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