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US Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, who this week slapped tariffs on steel and aluminium imports from the EU and tried to negotiate a trade deal with China, is a converted globalist, comfortable with contradictions, writes Shawn Donnan in a profile. Although he now happily embraces Trumpian protectionism, he once owned textile factories in Mexico and China and made billions selling US steel mills to an overseas buyer.

Mr Ross is a thick-skinned survivor who has been dogged by controversy over business ties to Russian oligarchs and investments in the Bank of Cyprus as well as questions about the true size of his personal fortune. Despite taking harsh criticism from President Donald Trump, he remains unflappable and poker-faced.

Third time's a charm: Watching her mother prepare for a third marriage has brought home to Emma Jacobs just how much life has changed for over-65-year-olds. In 2015, 3.3 per cent of women marrying men were over-60, up from 1.6 per cent in 1990. The dating website eHarmony predicts that by 2050 the proportion of over-65s singletons using online dating services could be as high as 78 per cent, up from 12 per cent last year.

Flawed forecasts: When people are asked to predict the likelihood of a specific event, they systematically misremember what they expected in ways that make them look more prescient than they really were, writes Tim Harford. Computers can improve forecasting because they tap into different types of data from satellite imaging to song downloads.

Economic maturity: The Scottish National Party's report on sustainable growth, released this week, offers a sober, adult take on what would happen to the country if voters opted for independence, according to John Kay. The conclusions bely the leftist image of Scottish politics with a strong pro-business focus, recognising that the success of small economies depends on the ability of strong domestic industries to sell specialised products in global markets.

Best of the week

An unusual family approach to investing by John Gapper

Arbitrary UK visa quotas lead to perverse and damaging outcomes by Sarah O'Connor

Mid-sized powers must unite to preserve the world order by Gideon Rachman

The real cost of Brexit is in missed opportunities by Janan Ganesh

White House unleashes billionaires to boost the space race by Gillian Tett

Donald Trump is jeopardising the dollar’s supremacy by Edward Luce

Italian deadlock sets stage for fierce battle over the EU by Tony Barber

We can only tackle epidemics by preparing for the unexpected by Anjana Ahuja

The world’s progress brings new challenges by Martin Wolf

What you've been saying

Trump presidency will not upend dollar’s pivotal role— letter from George Magnus

Edward Luce’s warning that the global role of the US dollar will become unhinged by a debt shock joins a rising chorus of justifiable concern about where President Donald Trump’s America is headed. This warning, however, seems incomplete in its focus. Remember the UK’s public debt as a share of GDP was continuously between 100-250 per cent from 1750 to 1850, and again in the first half of the 20th century. Sterling’s reserve currency role, still dominant in 1940, was undermined by two global wars during which it borrowed heavily from the US, and was torpedoed not by debt but by the UK’s loss of economic pre-eminence.

Comment by PurpleCanary on Tillerson, Pompeo and the fall of American diplomacy:

I would argue that Trump is a chess player, but just a really very bad one. What is called a patzer or a wood-pusher. A player who inhabits a solipsistic world in which he only looks at and only understands, if at all, his side of the board and his pieces, and cannot comprehend what his opponent's pieces are and what he might do with them. As to the broader "then what?" argument, surely this only mirrors the forces that brought Trump to power. If you were to ask his electorate, on so many issues, "then what?" they would be equally stumped for an answer. And with Brexit in the UK and now with Italy. Angry, inchoate votes against, rather than votes for something. Votes to throw over the established order without a clue what to replace it with.

Congress can follow the EU’s lead and update US privacy laws— letter from Marc Rotenberg, President, Electronic Privacy Information Center

Contrary to the views of Wilbur Ross, US commerce secretary, many Americans welcome the new privacy law of the EU and look forward to its adoption by US companies. Today internet users face unprecedented levels of identity theft, financial fraud and data breaches…..It would be a critical mistake to assume that there is a trade-off between invention and data protection. With more and more devices connected to the internet, privacy and security have become paramount concerns. Properly understood, new privacy laws should spur the development of privacy enhancing techniques that minimise the collection of personal data. Instead of criticising the EU effort, the commerce department should help develop a comprehensive strategy to update US data protection laws.

Today's opinion

Serge Dassault, billionaire industrialist, 1925-2018
The French defence group head and politician lived in his father’s shadow

Scotland builds its economic muscle to fight again for independence
Nationalists ditch the wishlist in favour of credible plans for life outside the UK

FT Collections: Italy’s economy and the eurozone
Markets roiled by the uncertainty in Italy with the effects felt across the eurozone

Bright young things flock to a withering old profession
What could possibly tempt today’s graduates to apply for jobs as investment bankers?

Londongrad oligarchs are being forced back to Russia’s embrace
As sanctions bite, tycoons feel hemmed in by Vladimir Putin’s power

Person in the News: Wilbur Ross, the global financier turned protectionist
The US commerce secretary trumpeting tariffs on allies is a converted globalist

Free Lunch: Switzerland’s sovereign money puzzles
Questions and answers as Swiss voters decide on full-reserve banking

FT Alphaville: Atlas bugged

Tail Risk: Deutsche Bank’s systemic risk puts Italian lenders in the shade
The bonds and equity of Germany’s biggest bank are under pressure once again

Ingram Pinn’s illustration of the week: Relaxing the rules
US proposes to ease banking controls

Undercover Economist: I can make one confident prediction: my forecasts will fail
Data mining has opened a new front in the battle to see the future

Over-65s like my mother are retying the knot
Businesses have spotted the romantic potential of the baby boomers

EM Squared: Ageing populations usher in era of youthful leaders
Fortysomethings seize power in the west even as septuagenarians retain hold elsewhere

Instant Insight: Make America 1929 again
The president is committed to the pursuit of a trade war even if it costs the country dearly

White House unleashes billionaires to boost the space race
Washington slashes ‘red tape’ in the hope US entrepreneurs will push ahead of China

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