Saudi Arabia has severed ties with Iran in the escalating dispute over the execution of a Shia cleric by Riyadh and the consequent storming of the Saudi embassy in Tehran. Adel al-Jubeir, Saudi foreign minister, said Iran would not be allowed to undermine the Sunni kingdom’s security.

Saudi Arabia executed 47 people on Saturday for planning and carrying out terrorist attacks, including the prominent Shia cleric and activist Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr, triggering riots at Riyadh’s embassy in Tehran. Police shot one person dead and injured a child in an exchange of fire in the cleric's home town of Awamiya in eastern Saudi Arabia, as protests continued. The New York Times has a primer on the basic differences between Sunni and Shia Islam. (FT, NYT)

In the news

China's New Year sell-off Chinese shares have plunged in the first session of 2016, with new circuit breakers bringing trading to a halt for the day. The Shenzhen market suffered its worst day in nine years and the blue-chip CSI 300 index slumped 7 per cent. Weak manufacturing data were blamed for the sell-off. (FT)

The Nifty Nine 2015 would have entered the history books as a terrible year for the US stock market — had it not been for a small group of nifty companies. US bonds and equities had their second-worst collective 12 months since 1995 — outstripped only by the disaster year of 2008. (FT)

Isis claims killing of ‘UK spies’ The militant group has released a video purporting to show the killing of five men they claim were spying for Britain, accompanied by a message taunting UK Prime Minister David Cameron for challenging the “might” of Isis. (FT)

Sweden brings in border checks The Nordic country has introduced identity checks for travellers from Denmark in an attempt to reduce the number of migrants arriving in the country. Rail commuters heading to Sweden will now have to change trains at Copenhagen Airport and go through ID checkpoints. Sweden received more than 150,000 asylum applications in 2015. (BBC)

Economists back Cameron on EU An overwhelming majority of economists have backed the claim by David Cameron that British membership of a reformed EU is vital to the country’s economic security, in an annual Financial Times survey. (FT)

Shake-up for US mutual funds A new entrant in the US mutual fund industry pulled in more money in 2015 than powerhouse brands including Fidelity, BlackRock and American Funds. The Bridge Builder fund family, created by the Edward Jones chain of financial advisers, attracted more than $15bn within months of launching seven bond and equity vehicles. (FT)

It's a big day for

US gun control President Barack Obama is to meet with Attorney-general Loretta Lynch to finalise a series of new gun control measures. One of the main proposals would require some unlicensed gun dealers to get licences and conduct background checks on potential buyers. (WaPo)

Tech enthusiasts, who are flocking to Las Vegas this week for the annual showcase of hot technology — the CES Consumer Electronics Show. (FT)

Food for thought

The world in 2016 Will Britain vote to leave the EU? Will Russian athletes compete in the Olympics? Will Jeremy Corbyn still be Labour leader a year from now? The FT’s experts and commentators set caution to one side and predict how the big events of the coming year will play out. (FT)

Elementary discovery Four new elements have been added to the periodic table, finally completing the table’s seventh row and rendering science textbooks around the world instantly out of date. The elements, discovered by scientists in Japan, Russia and America, are the first to be added to the table since 2011, when elements 114 and 116 were added. (Guardian)

Obama’s high-stakes final year Barack Obama’s original vow was to heal divisions in an increasingly polarised and embittered society. He now has 12 months to make good on that promise or risk leaving office with the US even less governable than when he found it. (FT)

Corporate guff — Lucy Kellaway’s Golden Flannel Awards Last year was a ripping one for corporate jargon, writes the FT’s Lucy Kellaway. “What stood out was the number of entries that offend not only the eye and ear but make the flesh creep too.” And the soaraway winner? “Executive brownout”. (FT)

The problem with craft beer The industry is addicted to hops. So addicted, in fact, it doesn’t even notice. Hops only make up a small proportion of the ingredients used in beer, yet a lot of people conflate its bitter aftertaste with the taste of craft beer itself. (Slate)

Can you hold back the tears? Watching a Thai TV commercial can be a heart-wrenching, harrowing experience for even the thickest of skins. Life insurance ads are produced like silver screen tear-jerkers, with scenes of intense emotional torment and profound tragedy. Now, online viewers are daring each other not to cry and the challenge has become something of a digital spectator sport. (WSJ)

Facebook founder's robot butler Mark Zuckerberg has made a New Year resolution to build his own robot assistant. In a post on the social network, the Facebook founder said he had decided to build a smart butler to control functions in his house and help him work. He compared it with Jarvis, an intelligent computer in the Iron Man movies. (FT)

Video of the day

Robots in the workplace Mark Zuckerberg may want one at home, but will the rise of the robots in the workplace usher in a jobless, machine-dominated dystopia or a productive partnership with sophisticated computer-helpers? Andrew Hill, management editor, considers what the automated future holds for white-collar workers. (FT)

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