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HSBC, Europe’s biggest bank by assets, has beaten analysts’ expectations for its first-quarter results, with pre-tax profits of $5.9bn. Strong trading conditions, rising interest rates and a weaker dollar lifted the bank’s earnings, bringing welcome relief from a heavy miss at the end of last year.

HSBC said strong growth in credit, rates and equities trading offset a drop in foreign exchange income. Mirroring a surge in trading income from the big US investment banks, it reported a 29 per cent rise in global markets revenue in the quarter. Shares in the bank jumped 3 per cent in Hong Kong, helping boost the index after early losses over concern about a Federal Reserve rate increase next month. (FT, NAR)

In the news

Prince Philip steps down The Duke of Edinburgh will step down from royal duties in the autumn, Buckingham Palace has announced. The Queen’s husband is turning 96 next month and is the longest serving consort in British history. He has been married to the Queen for 70 years. (BBC)

Facebook earnings bonanza The social network beat analysts’ expectations on earnings and revenue as the appetite for mobile advertising on the world’s largest social network showed no sign of abating. Shares, which have risen 30 per cent this year, hit a record $153.60. (FT)

The great avocado crisis Avocado prices have soared to record levels — and it is going to get worse. Stock from Europe’s main supplier, Peru, is expected to be sent to the US because of an output fall in Mexico, its largest supplier. (WaPo, FT)

Choking in China A haze of sand from a Gobi desert sandstorm has sent air pollution to extreme levels in Beijing. Air quality index scores for PM10 — particulate matter with a diameter of 10 microns or less — for Beijing and surrounding cities hovered around 900-999 on Thursday. World Health Organization guidelines recommend a score no higher than 50. (FT)

Gloves come off in French debate Hostile, vicious and unworthy of viewing. These were some of the words to describe the French TV debate between the far-right National Front leader Marine Le Pen and centrist independent Emmanuel Macron on Wednesday night. An Elabe poll suggested Mr Macron had appeared more convincing for 63 per cent of the viewers. Here are the three main takeaways from the more than two-hour debate. (FT, NYT, BBC, Politico)

It’s a big day for

Algeria The oil-rich North African state is holding parliamentary elections, the first since a legal amendment gave more power to the legislature. (Jazeera)

The UK Local elections are being held in 88 councils in England, Scotland and Wales. Six new “metro mayors” will also be elected in the north and west of England. (BBC)

US healthcare House Republican leaders plan to hold a showdown vote on their bill to repeal and replace large portions of the Affordable Care Act. This time they are confident it will pass. (NYT)

US, Australia . . . and Rupert Murdoch The chairman of News Corp and 21st Century Fox will introduce President Donald Trump at a dinner to honour Australian prime minister Malcolm Turnbull in New York — after an earlier spat between the two leaders. (FT)

Food for thought

Double lives Weekly boarders — or 5:2-ers, as some people call them — are shuttling in planes, trains and automobiles between London and cities, towns and villages all over the country — and even abroad. The FT interviews 5:2-ers across the country to assess whether the benefits outweigh the pain. (FT)

Silicon Valley moves south Donald Trump’s pledge to crack down on immigration may have soured relations with Mexico, but it could have an unexpected benefit for the country’s tech sector. Technology outsourcers from India, Europe and the US are looking to the US’s southern neighbour as a place from which to service US clients struggling to recruit software engineers. (FT)

China’s boycott diplomacy South Korea is the latest country to suffer from a hostile campaign backed by Beijing. China has been implementing sanctions against its foes for more than 100 years but do such boycotts work in changing policy? (FT)

From lost boy to basketball stars South Sudanese teens who arrived in Australia as refugees have found solace in basketball teams that help them recover from the violence they experienced back in South Sudan. They are being recruited by US schools and colleges and face dislocation of a different kind. (NYT)

St Louis’s unlikely speciality Nearly a decade ago there was a push to encourage chess in the declining US city. Now the Midwest city is the country’s chess mecca and that has in turn helped the US to become one of the world’s top chess champions again. (Economist)

Video of the day

Brussels’ €100bn Brexit bill According to the EU, Britain must agree to meet all outstanding financial liabilities from four decades of EU membership before any talks of a post-Brexit trade deal with the bloc can begin. (FT)

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