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Taking credit for the achievements of others has, surely, never hurt anyone on their way to the top. But in Donald Trump’s case, it may have been a little too blatant in recent weeks. As expected, he used his address at Davos to boast about the health of the US economy, claiming it was down to his policies and leadership: “I think you have a brand new United States,” he said

How, asks Martin Wolf in this week’s column, should we evaluate his claims? Not favourably on growth or labour productivity, or employment rates. Booming stocks should be, he argues, a source of worry not a boast.

So far, Martin concludes, Mr Trump has been lucky on the economy, and that boosts his confidence. Beware, however, an emboldened US president if he feels able to make good on his more outlandish threats on trade. Will he be more reasonable because things are going well, or more intransigent?

Play by the rules: Theresa May writes for the FT about her ambitions for this week’s prime ministerial visit to China, where she aims to promote the rules-based approach to trade. Is there an implied rebuke there to other world leaders of a protectionist bent? She hopes the UK can enjoy a commercial dividend from President Xi Jinping’s pledge to open up the economy.

Unexplained item in the bagging area: Diane Coyle on why customer irritation at the self-service checkout reveals a more serious flaw in the companies that impose these new tasks on us — they are using technology to produce fake productivity gains. What would a real productivity gain in the service sector look like?

Politicians have babies too: Courtney Weaver writes from Washington about Tammy Duckworth, whose latest entry in the record books will be when she becomes the first US senator to give birth while in office. Courtney muses on how her own peers are navigating the challenges of new parenthood (with some being offered eye-popping perks by employers) and on how much has changed for working mothers in America.

Best of the rest

Rafael Behr in The Guardian on the Conservative party’s mounting regicidal fever (that never quite amounts to a coup)

Paul Rosenzweig in The Atlantic argues that There’s No Way Mueller Will Indict Trump

Sarah Ditum for the New Statesman on the hard transgender cases behind bad prison decisions. Difficult territory where rights compete.

Emmanuel Macron’s modern Saint-Simonism — Virgile Chassagnon in Le Monde (in French)

What you’ve been saying

Finance needs creative thinkers as well as number crunchers — letter from Tim Skeet in response to Sarah Churchwell’s defence of “useless degrees”

“Having enjoyed a long career spanning several decades in banking, I have watched as my industry has largely excluded liberal arts graduates in favour of mathematicians, economists and various scientists. Tough numerical tests have deterred many potentially brilliant applicants for City jobs, and the resulting groupthink and linear approach to problem-solving may in part explain some of banking’s recent failings.”

Shareholders look for more than mere survival — letter from Dr Rupert C Marshall

“I am not entirely convinced that Shackleton is the best exemplar of those who shun psychometric testing (A frosty response to psychometric testing, Pilita Clark). His ship was squashed by the ice, forcing him and his crew to abandon ship — they were not rescued for the best part of a year. Bringing them all back alive was a fine achievement but shareholders in FTSE companies might wish the bar raised to something somewhat higher than mere survival.”

Comment from Scourge of the Economists on Rail: frustration grows with Britain’s fragmented rail network

“Privatization and Nationalization are high-level “magic wand” remedies. Neither of them makes any difference to the actual management of the railway, they just change of from one set of managers to another set of managers with slightly different incentives.” 

Today’s opinion

Donald Trump has been lucky with the US economy He is taking credit for the continuation of a post-crisis recovery begun under Obama

Technology alone can’t ease the worries of working parents A state-of-the-art breast pump is useful, but fears about status at work persist

Iran is threatening stability in the Middle East Tehran’s regional aggression and ballistic missiles programme must be curtailed

Free Lunch: Reality bites in Britain’s Brexit conundrum The UK government knows there are no good options

In the service sector, time is a better measure of productivity Technology is shifting the line between what is part of the economy and what is not

The Big Read: Lex in Depth: the case against share buybacks With investment in development stuck at pre-crisis levels and stock prices high, do US companies’ huge repurchases make sense?

In the 4G patent wars everybody loses A ‘peace plan’ can provide greater transparency and collective licensing

FT View

FT View: Chinese bugs expose Africa’s weak defences A breach at the African Union shows a need to redefine relations

FT View: A rare chance to create a pan-eurozone safe asset Europe’s central bank should kick-start a market that would lessen risk to stability

The Big Read

The Big Read: Lex in Depth: the case against share buybacks With investment in development stuck at pre-crisis levels and stock prices high, do US companies’ huge repurchases make sense?

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