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Stocks in Europe were down on Thursday as US president Donald Trump’s “executive disorder” roiled the markets. But traders could take comfort from the decision to appoint Robert Mueller as special counsel in the investigation of Russian meddling in the Trump campaign. The former FBI director is respected by both Republican and Democrat politicians — a rare instance of bipartisanship in the febrile atmosphere of Capitol Hill. His appointment came as it emerged that Trump advisers, including Michael Flynn, the former national security adviser, had at least 18 undisclosed contacts with Russia during the final seven months of the election campaign.

The sudden announcement of a special counsel capped an extraordinary 10 days in US politics, launching, in the FT’s words, “a thousand Watergate references”. The “i” word is being bandied about by US and international journalists but the FT’s Ed Luce throws cold water on the idea of impeachment. One reason: the rightwing media has created an alternative reality about Mr Trump’s crises. (FT, WaPo, Reuters, Atlantic, WaPo, NYT)

In the news

Facebook fined over WhatsApp
The European Commission has fined the social network €110m for misleading authorities during the 2014 takeover of WhatsApp. It is the latest example of Brussels taking a tough stand against a Silicon Valley company. (Reuters)

Nato pushes back
Germany and France are resisting efforts by US president Donald Trump to bring Nato into the coalition fighting Isis, saying that taking on a formal role would not lead to the alliance itself participating in combat operations. Paris and Berlin reportedly fear that joining the coalition could put the alliance on an “escalator” towards taking responsibility for the fight against Isis in Syria and Iraq. (FT)

From zero to hero?
The British pound has risen above $1.30 for the first time since September. Part of this is due to strong economic data but it has also been helped by weakness in the US dollar, which is suffering because of the political turmoil gripping Washington. (FT)

Japan economy grows
GDP grew 2.2 per cent in the first quarter of 2017, marking the longest period of sustained growth in more than a decade. The figure, which beat analyst forecasts, is a boost for the policies of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. (FT)

Brazil president in bribery scandal
Brazilian president Michel Temer gave his blessing to an attempt to pay a potential witness in the country’s biggest-ever graft probe to remain silent, according to plea-bargain testimony by a powerful businessman. Protesters took to the streets in São Paulo and Brasília, calling for the president to resign. (Reuters, BBC)

A murder, an heiress and the Chinese military
A murder case in California gives a graphic illustration of how money made in China has flooded overseas real estate markets. (FT)

The day ahead

G20 health ministers gather
German chancellor Angela Merkel will open the first meeting of G20 health ministers. The two-day gathering in Berlin will prepare recommendations for joint efforts on shaping global health, which will be put to the G20 leaders’ summit in Hamburg in July. (FT)

Alibaba reports earnings
Alibaba Group Holding Ltd reports its fiscal fourth-quarter earnings, with its shares trading at an all-time high. (WSJ)

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

What we’re reading

Iran’s election in charts
As they prepare to cast their votes in Friday’s presidential elections, Iranians are weighing up the candidates’ claims on the economy. A series of charts shows why the incumbent, Hassan Rouhani, is defending his record on containing inflation, while his opponents are attacking him for the country’s persistently high unemployment. (FT)

China’s Pakistani ‘project of the century’
Pakistan is expected to be one of the largest beneficiaries of Xi Jinping’s new Silk Road infrastructure project but “there is a scary downside”. (FT)

Fixing the US wine deficit
Donald Trump has repeatedly railed against the US trade deficit. Now California’s winemakers want the president to deal with wine regulations, saying that the US is under assault from European wines. (FT)

Big in Japan
The 50-year-old 007 film, You Only Live Twice, in which Japan co-stars with Sean Connery, shows how Tokyo and London can revive their security alliance. (NAR)

Music’s healing powers
A read on how personalised music can be used in treating sick people. Dedicated software, such as MusicLink, is emerging to make the job of creating personalised playlists simpler for healthcare professionals while many healthcare organisations are putting music at the heart of their services. (Economist)

Video of the day

Iran’s voters at a crossroads
Najmeh Bozorgmehr, Tehran correspondent, speaks with young Iranians who explain why they will vote for President Hassan Rouhani. His main rival is hardliner Ebrahim Raisi, who opposes western influence, which he blames for economic hardship. (FT)


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