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US tech stocks have broken a record, surging past their dotcom bubble peak. The S&P 500 information technology index, which measures the largest companies in the industry, rose for the ninth consecutive day on Wednesday, closing up 0.6 per cent at 992.29. That compares with the previous record of 988.49 on March 27 2000. The rally continued in Europe on Thursday, but at a gentler pace. The Euro Stoxx technology index was 0.2 per cent higher by late morning. All eyes will be on Microsoft today, when the world’s largest software company reports earnings.

It is 17 years since the crash of tech stocks after dotcom mania and the long crawl back by the sector. “Earnings are a lot more solid now,” one expert said. But money managers are still hesitant on the sector. Banks have overtaken tech stocks as the most overweighted sector, according to Bank of America Merrill Lynch’s most recent fund manager survey. (FT, CNBC, Bloomberg)

In the news

SoftBank’s vision
Masayoshi Son, head of the Japanese holding company, says he sees a future where everyone and everything is connected to the internet, traffic accidents don’t happen and robots are smarter than humans — and that this is a good thing. Ahead of his speech in Tokyo, the company announced almost half a billion dollars’ worth of tech investments in a diverse group of companies ranging from robotics to farming, as it begins to deploy its $93bn Vision Fund. (NAR, FT)

US and China talk trade
The US ramped up talks with China on its trade deficit and steel imports. The intensified deliberations are part of the “Comprehensive Economic Dialogue” between Donald Trump’s team and their Chinese counterparts in Washington this week. Wednesday’s talks were “quite tough”, one insider said, especially after the US was criticised for being outplayed by Beijing earlier this year. (FT)

Turkey not safe for Germans
A diplomatic crisis between Ankara and Berlin has intensified after a German human rights activist was arrested in Turkey and charged with supporting a terrorist organisation. Foreign minister Sigmar Gabriel said it was no longer safe for German citizens to travel to the country. “We have to be clearer than before, so the authorities in Ankara understand that their policies are not without consequences.” (FT)

Trump and Russia latest
Donald Trump has halted the covert arming of Syrian rebels, a move that is likely to please Russia. In the US, Mr Trump blasted his attorney-general Jeff Sessions for recusing himself from the Russia investigation in a wide-ranging interview with the New York Times. Finally, Donald Trump Jr, along with the former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort and son-in-law Jared Kushner, have been asked to testify in the Russia probe. Separately, frequent Trump critic and US senator John McCain has been diagnosed with brain cancer. (WaPo, NYT, Guardian)

Time to pay up, says France
Paris has insisted that the UK pay its Brexit bill of as much as €100bn, as the second round of UK-EU talks wrap up in Brussels. French finance minister Bruno Le Maire told a hearing at the French parliament: “We want our money back.” The phrase was used by Margaret Thatcher, who in the 1980s successfully (and controversially) negotiated a rebate on Britain’s annual payments to the central EU budget. (Bloomberg)

Planet Plastic
More than 9bn tons of plastic has been produced since 1950, and the vast majority of it is still around according to a new US study. It’s as heavy as 25,000 Empire State Buildings in New York, or 1bn elephants, and there’s more than a tonne for every human on earth. (WaPo, BBC)

The day ahead

ECB policy meeting
The European Central Bank’s governing council meets to discuss the strength of the region’s economic recovery. While no radical changes are expected to the central bank’s monetary policy, even the slightest shift in President Mario Draghi’s rhetoric could cause big movements in financial markets. The bank is buying €60bn worth of bonds a month as part of its quantitative easing programme. (FT)

May meets CEOs
UK Prime Minister Theresa May hosts the first meeting of a new business council intended to increase the involvement of UK business in the government’s Brexit strategy. She will attempt to allay their concerns about the impact of Britain leaving the single market and customs union. (BBC)

Morocco’s million-man march
Protesters in the northern city of Hoceima are gearing up for a massive rally to call for an end to state neglect in Morocco’s northern Rif region. It is the latest protest by a popular movement that has ballooned in the region after the death last year of a fishmonger after an altercation with the security forces. (Jazeera)

Keep up with the important business, economic and political stories in the coming days with the FT’s Week Ahead.

What we’re reading

Detroit 50 years on
It was the riot that helped change US race relations forever. And yet America is arguably more divided along racial lines now than at any time since 12th Street went up in smoke. The FT’s Patti Waldmeir goes back to her hometown to see what has — and has not — changed. (FT)

How rich countries are losing their edge
Martin Wolf explains in seven charts how the gap between rich and poor nations is narrowing, as the sources of dynamism in high-income economies slow. (FT)

Hello Kitty maker goes anti-capitalist
Hello Kitty once represented the height of consumer culture. Now the Japanese consumer goods brand Sanrio, which debuted the catlike cartoon with infantile feminine charm in 1974, has a new character. Aggretsuko “is a symbol and expression of the pent-up stress and irritation that is rife in the world today”. Oh, and she chugs beers and performs death metal karaoke. (NYT)

Isis digs in for guerrilla war
As Iraqi forces reclaim the city of Mosul from members of the jihadi group, military commanders say the group has shifted its tactics. They are bracing themselves for a devastating insurgency similar to one fought by al-Qaeda after the 2003 US-led invasion. “I believe we have tougher days coming,” said one. (Reuters)

Canada’s untouchables
The country’s spy service has been described as a “rat hole” by its own members. Andrew Mitrovica, an investigative journalist who has covered the service for years, tells of a seemingly untouchable institution running amok in a country famous for its tolerance. A recent $35m lawsuit brought by five (anonymous) intelligence officers and analysts alleges that the service is “a cesspool of Islamophobia, homophobia, sexism and racism”. (Jazeera)

Video of the day

Does the Fed chair need an economics background?
How important is it to have an economics background to run the Federal Reserve? The FT’s US economics editor Sam Fleming talks to several leading economists on whether being versed in the theory is a basic requirement for a Fed chair. (FT)

Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2017. All rights reserved.
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