Facebook Navigates an Internet Fractured by Governmental Controls

On a muggy, late spring evening, Tuan Pham awoke to the police storming his house in Hanoi, Vietnam.

They marched him to a police station and made their demand: Hand over your Facebook password. Mr. Tuan, a computer engineer, had recently written a poem on the social network called “Mother’s Lullaby,” which criticized how the communist country was run.

One line read, “One century has passed, we are still poor and hungry, do you ask why?”

Mr. Tuan’s arrest came just weeks after Facebook offered a major olive branch to Vietnam’s government. Facebook’s head of global policy management, Monika Bickert, met with a top Vietnamese official in April and pledged to remove information from the social network that violated the country’s laws.

While Facebook said its policies in Vietnam have not changed, and it has a consistent process for governments to report illegal content, the Vietnamese government was specific. The social network, they have said, had agreed to help create a new communications channel with the government to prioritize Hanoi’s requests and remove what the regime considered inaccurate posts about senior leaders.

Populous, developing countries like Vietnam are where the company is looking to add its next billion customers — and to bolster its ad business. Facebook’s promise to Vietnam helped the social media giant placate a government that had called on local companies not to advertise on foreign sites like Facebook, and it remains a major marketing channel for businesses there.

The diplomatic game that unfolded in Vietnam has become increasingly common for Facebook. The internet is Balkanizing, and the world’s largest tech companies have had to dispatch envoys to, in effect, contain the damage such divisions pose to their ambitions.

The internet has long had a reputation of being an anything-goes place that only a few nations have tried to tame — China in particular. But in recent years, events as varied as the Arab Spring, elections in France and confusion in Indonesia over the religion of the country’s president have awakened governments to how they have lost some control over online speech, commerce and politics on their home turf.

Even in the United States, tech giants are facing heightened scrutiny from the government. Facebook recently cooperated with investigators for Robert S. Mueller III, the special counsel investigating Russian interference in the American presidential election. In recent weeks, politicians on the left and the right have also spoken out about the excess power of America’s largest tech companies.

As nations try to grab back power online, a clash is brewing between governments and companies. Some of the biggest companies in the world — Google, Apple, Facebook, Amazon and Alibaba among them — are finding they need to play by an entirely new set of rules on the once-anarchic internet.

And it’s not just one new set of rules. According to a review by The New York Times, more than 50 countries have passed laws over the last five years to gain greater control over how their people use the web.

“Ultimately, it’s a grand power struggle,” said David Reed, an early pioneer of the internet and a former professor at the M.I.T. Media Lab. “Governments started waking up as soon as a significant part of their powers of communication of any sort started being invaded by companies.”

Facebook encapsulates the reasons for the internet’s fragmentation — and increasingly, its consequences.

Graphic | Global Reach

The company has become so far-reaching that more than two billion people — about a quarter of the world’s population — now use Facebook each month. Internet users (excluding China) spend one in five minutes online within the Facebook universe, according to comScore, a research firm. And Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s chief executive, wants that dominance to grow.

But politicians have struck back. China, which blocked Facebook in 2009, has resisted Mr. Zuckerberg’s efforts to get the social network back into the country. In Europe, officials have repudiated Facebook’s attempts to gather data from its messaging apps and third-party websites.

The Silicon Valley giant’s tussle with the fracturing internet is poised to escalate. Facebook has now reached almost everyone who already has some form of internet access, excluding China. Capturing those last users — including in Asian nations like Vietnam and African countries like Kenya — may involve more government roadblocks.

“We understand that and accept that our ideals are not everyone’s,” said Elliot Schrage, Facebook’s vice president of communications and public policy. “But when you look at the data and truly listen to the people around the world who rely on our service, it’s clear that we do a much better job of bringing people together than polarizing them.”

Friending China

By mid-2016, a yearslong campaign by Facebook to get into China — the world’s biggest internet market — appeared to be sputtering.

Mr. Zuckerberg had wined and dined Chinese politicians, publicly showed off his newly acquired Chinese-language skills — a moment that set the internet abuzz — and talked with a potential Chinese partner about pushing the social network into the market, according to a person familiar with the talks who declined to be named because the discussions were confidential.

At a White House dinner in 2015, Mr. Zuckerberg had even asked the Chinese president, Xi Jinping, whether Mr. Xi might offer a Chinese name for his soon-to-be-born first child — usually a privilege reserved for older relatives, or sometimes a fortune teller. Mr. Xi declined, according to a person briefed on the matter.

But all those efforts flopped, foiling Facebook’s attempts to crack one of the most isolated pockets of the internet.

China has blocked Facebook and Twitter since mid-2009, after an outbreak of ethnic rioting in the western part of the country. In recent years, similar barriers have gone up for Google services and other apps, like Line and Instagram.

Even if Facebook found a way to enter China now, it would not guarantee financial success. Today, the overwhelming majority of Chinese citizens use local online services like Qihoo 360 and Sina Weibo. No American-made apps rank among China’s 50 most popular services, according to SAMPi, a market research firm.

Chinese tech officials said that although many in the government are open to the idea of Facebook releasing products in China, there is resistance among leaders in the standing committee of the country’s Politburo, its top decision-making body.

In 2016, Facebook took tentative steps toward embracing China’s censorship policies. That summer, Facebook developed a tool that could suppress posts in certain geographic areas, The Times reported last year. The idea was that it would help the company get into China by enabling Facebook or a local partner to censor content according to Beijing’s demands. The tool was not deployed.

In another push last year, Mr. Zuckerberg spent time at a conference in Beijing that is a standard on the China government relations tour. Using his characteristic brand of diplomacy — the Facebook status update — he posted a photo of himself running in Tiananmen Square on a dangerously smoggy day. The photo drew derision on Twitter, and concerns from Chinese about Mr. Zuckerberg’s health.

For all the courtship, things never quite worked out.

“There’s an interest on both sides of the dance, so some kind of product can be introduced,” said Kai-Fu Lee, the former head of Google in China who now runs a venture-capital firm in Beijing. “But what Facebook wants is impossible, and what they can have may not be very meaningful.”

This spring, Facebook tried a different tactic: testing the waters in China without telling anyone. The company authorized the release of a photo-sharing app there that does not bear its name, and experimented by linking it to a Chinese social network called WeChat.

One factor driving Mr. Zuckerberg may be the brisk ad business that Facebook does from its Hong Kong offices, where the company helps Chinese companies — and the government’s own propaganda organs — spread their messages. In fact, the scale of the Chinese government’s use of Facebook to communicate abroad offers a notable sign of Beijing’s understanding of Facebook’s power to mold public opinion.

Chinese state media outlets have used ad buys to spread propaganda around key diplomatic events. Its stodgy state-run television station and the party mouthpiece newspaper each have far more Facebook “likes” than popular Western news brands like CNN and Fox News, a likely indication of big ad buys.

To attract more ad spending, Facebook set up one page to show China’s state broadcaster, CCTV, how to promote on the platform, according to a person familiar with the matter. Dedicated to Mr. Xi’s international trips, the page is still regularly updated by CCTV, and has 2.7 million likes. During the 2015 trip when Mr. Xi met Mr. Zuckerberg, CCTV used the channel to spread positive stories. One post was titled “Xi’s UN address wins warm applause.”

Fittingly, Mr. Zuckerberg’s eagerness and China’s reluctance can be tracked on Facebook.

During Mr. Xi’s 2015 trip to America, Mr. Zuckerberg posted about how the visit offered him his first chance to speak a foreign language with a world leader. The post got more than a half million likes, including from Chinese state media (despite the national ban). But on Mr. Xi’s propaganda page, Mr. Zuckerberg got only one mention — in a list of the many tech executives who met the Chinese president.

Europe’s Privacy Pushback

Last summer, emails winged back and forth between members of Facebook’s global policy team. They were finalizing plans, more than two years in the making, for WhatsApp, the messaging app Facebook had bought in 2014, to start sharing data on its one billion users with its new parent company. The company planned to use the data to tailor ads on Facebook’s other services and to stop spam on WhatsApp.

A big issue: how to win over wary regulators around the world.

Despite all that planning, Facebook was hit by a major backlash. A month after the new data-sharing deal started in August 2016, German privacy officials ordered WhatsApp to stop passing data on its 36 million local users to Facebook, claiming people did not have enough say over how it would be used. The British privacy watchdog soon followed.

By late October, all 28 of Europe’s national data-protection authorities jointly called on Facebook to stop the practice. Facebook quietly mothballed its plans in Europe. It has continued to collect people’s information elsewhere, including the United States.

“There’s a growing awareness that people’s data is controlled by large American actors,” said Isabelle Falque-Pierrotin, France’s privacy regulator. “These actors now know that times have changed.”

Facebook’s retreat shows how Europe is effectively employing regulations — including tough privacy rules — to control how parts of the internet are run.

The goal of European regulators, officials said, is to give users greater control over the data from social media posts, online searches and purchases that Facebook and other tech giants rely on to monitor our online habits.

As a tech company whose ad business requires harvesting digital information, Facebook has often underestimated the deep emotions that European officials and citizens have tied into the collection of such details. That dates back to the time of the Cold War, when many Europeans were routinely monitored by secret police.

Now, regulators from Colombia to Japan are often mimicking Europe’s stance on digital privacy. “It’s only natural European regulators would be at the forefront,” said Brad Smith, Microsoft’s president and chief legal officer. “It reflects the importance they’ve attached to the privacy agenda.”

In interviews, Facebook denied it has played fast and loose with users’ online information and said it complies with national rules wherever it operates. It questioned whether Europe’s position has been effective in protecting individuals’ privacy at a time when the region continues to fall behind the United States and China in all things digital.

Still, the company said it respected Europe’s stance on data protection, particularly in Germany, where many citizens have long memories of government surveillance.

“There’s no doubt the German government is a strong voice inside the European community,” said Richard Allen, Facebook’s head of public policy in Europe. “We find their directness pretty helpful.”

Europe has the law on its side when dictating global privacy. Facebook’s non-North American users, roughly 1.8 billion people, are primarily overseen by Ireland’s privacy regulator because the company’s international headquarters is in Dublin, mostly for tax reasons. In 2012, Facebook was forced to alter its global privacy settings — including those in the United States — after Ireland’s data protection watchdog found problems while auditing the company’s operations there.

Three years later, Europe’s highest court also threw out a 15-year-old data-sharing agreement between the region and the United States following a complaint that Facebook had not sufficiently protected Europeans’ data when it was transferred across the Atlantic. The company denies any wrongdoing.

And on Sept. 12, Spain’s privacy agency fined the company 1.2 million euros for not giving people sufficient control over their data when Facebook collected it from third-party websites. Watchdogs in Germany, the Netherlands and elsewhere are conducting similar investigations. Facebook is appealing the Spanish ruling.

“Facebook simply can’t stick to a one-size-fits-all product around the world,” said Max Schrems, an Austrian lawyer who has been a Facebook critic after filing the case that eventually overturned the 15-year-old data deal.

Potentially more worrying for Facebook is how Europe’s view of privacy is being exported. Countries from Brazil to Malaysia, which are crucial to Facebook’s growth, have incorporated many of Europe’s tough privacy rules into their legislation.

“We regard the European directives as best practice,” said Pansy Tlakula, chairwoman of South Africa’s Information Regulator, the country’s data protection agency. South Africa has gone so far as to copy whole sections, almost word-for-word, from Europe’s rule book.

The Play for Kenya

Blocked in China and troubled by regulators in Europe, Facebook is trying to become “the internet” in Africa. Helping get people online, subsidizing access, and trying to launch satellites to beam the internet down to the markets it covets, Facebook has become a dominant force on a continent rapidly getting online.

But that has given it a power that has made some in Africa uncomfortable.

Some countries have blocked access, and outsiders have complained Facebook could squelch rival online business initiatives. Its competition with other internet companies from the United States and China has drawn comparisons to a bygone era of colonialism.

For Kenyans like Phyl Cherop, 33, an entrepreneur in Nairobi, online life is already dominated by the social network. She abandoned her bricks-and-mortar store in a middle-class part of the city in 2015 to sell on Facebook and WhatsApp.

“I gave it up because people just didn’t come anymore,” said Ms. Cherop, who sells items like designer dresses and school textbooks. She added that a stand-alone website would not have the same reach. “I prefer using Facebook because that’s where my customers are. The first thing people want to do when they buy a smartphone is to open a Facebook account.”

As Facebook hunts for more users, the company’s aspirations have shifted to emerging economies where people like Ms. Cherop live. Less than 50 percent of Africa’s population has internet connectivity, and regulation is often rudimentary.

Since Facebook entered Africa about a decade ago, it has become the region’s dominant tech platform. Some 170 million people — more than two thirds of all internet users from South Africa to Senegal — use it, according Facebook’s statistics. That is up 40 percent since 2015.

The company has struck partnerships with local carriers to offer basic internet services — centered on those offered by Facebook — for free. It has built a pared-down version of its social network to run on the cheaper, less powerful phones that are prevalent there.

Facebook is also investing tens of millions of dollars alongside telecom operators to build a 500-mile fiber-optic internet connection in rural Uganda. In total, it is working with about 30 regional governments on digital projects.

“We want to bring connectivity to the world,” said Jay Parikh, a Facebook vice president for engineering who oversees the company’s plans to use drones, satellites and other technology to connect the developing world.

Facebook is racing to gain the advantage in Africa over rivals like Google and Chinese players including Tencent, in a 21st century version of the “Scramble for Africa.” Google has built fiber internet networks in Uganda and Ghana. Tencent has released WeChat, its popular messaging and e-commerce app, in South Africa.

Facebook has already hit some bumps in its African push. Chad blocked access to Facebook and other sites during elections or political protests. Uganda also took legal action in Irish courts to force the social network to name an anonymous blogger who had been critical of the government. Those efforts failed.

In Kenya, one of Africa’s most connected countries, there has been less pushback.

Facebook expanded its efforts in the country of 48 million in 2014. It teamed up with Airtel Africa, a mobile operator, to roll out Facebook’s Free Basics — a no-fee version of the social network, with access to certain news, health, job and other services there and in more than 20 other countries worldwide. In Kenya, the average person has a budget of just 30 cents a day to spend on internet access.

Free Basics now lets Kenyans use Facebook and its Messenger service at no cost, as well as read news from a Kenyan newspaper and view information about public health programs. Joe Mucheru, Kenya’s tech minister, said it at least gives his countrymen a degree of internet access.

Still, Facebook’s plans have not always worked out. Many Kenyans with access to Free Basics rely on it only as a backup when their existing smartphone credit runs out.

“Free Basics? I don’t really use it that often,” said Victor Odinga, 27, an accountant in downtown Nairobi. “No one wants to be seen as someone who can’t afford to get online.”

Chips Off the Old Block: Computers Are Taking Design Cues From Human Brains

SAN FRANCISCO — We expect a lot from our computers these days. They should talk to us, recognize everything from faces to flowers, and maybe soon do the driving. All this artificial intelligence requires an enormous amount of computing power, stretching the limits of even the most modern machines.

Now, some of the world’s largest tech companies are taking a cue from biology as they respond to these growing demands. They are rethinking the very nature of computers and are building machines that look more like the human brain, where a central brain stem oversees the nervous system and offloads particular tasks — like hearing and seeing — to the surrounding cortex.

After years of stagnation, the computer is evolving again, and this behind-the-scenes migration to a new kind of machine will have broad and lasting implications. It will allow work on artificially intelligent systems to accelerate, so the dream of machines that can navigate the physical world by themselves can one day come true.

This migration could also diminish the power of Intel, the longtime giant of chip design and manufacturing, and fundamentally remake the $335 billion a year semiconductor industry that sits at the heart of all things tech, from the data centers that drive the internet to your iPhone to the virtual reality headsets and flying drones of tomorrow.

“This is an enormous change,” said John Hennessy, the former Stanford University president who wrote an authoritative book on computer design in the mid-1990s and is now a member of the board at Alphabet, Google’s parent company. “The existing approach is out of steam, and people are trying to re-architect the system.”

The existing approach has had a pretty nice run. For about half a century, computer makers have built systems around a single, do-it-all chip — the central processing unit — from a company like Intel, one of the world’s biggest semiconductor makers. That’s what you’ll find in the middle of your own laptop computer or smartphone.

Now, computer engineers are fashioning more complex systems. Rather than funneling all tasks through one beefy chip made by Intel, newer machines are dividing work into tiny pieces and spreading them among vast farms of simpler, specialized chips that consume less power.

Changes inside Google’s giant data centers are a harbinger of what is to come for the rest of the industry. Inside most of Google’s servers, there is still a central processor. But enormous banks of custom-built chips work alongside them, running the computer algorithms that drive speech recognition and other forms of artificial intelligence.

Google reached this point out of necessity. For years, the company had operated the world’s largest computer network — an empire of data centers and cables that stretched from California to Finland to Singapore. But for one Google researcher, it was much too small.

In 2011, Jeff Dean, one of the company’s most celebrated engineers, led a research team that explored the idea of neural networks — essentially computer algorithms that can learn tasks on their own. They could be useful for a number of things, like recognizing the words spoken into smartphones or the faces in a photograph.

In a matter of months, Mr. Dean and his team built a service that could recognize spoken words far more accurately than Google’s existing service. But there was a catch: If the world’s more than one billion phones that operated on Google’s Android software used the new service just three minutes a day, Mr. Dean realized, Google would have to double its data center capacity in order to support it.

“We need another Google,” Mr. Dean told Urs Hölzle, the Swiss-born computer scientist who oversaw the company’s data center empire, according to someone who attended the meeting. So Mr. Dean proposed an alternative: Google could build its own computer chip just for running this kind of artificial intelligence.

But what began inside data centers is starting to shift other parts of the tech landscape. Over the next few years, companies like Google, Apple and Samsung will build phones with specialized A.I. chips. Microsoft is designing such a chip specifically for an augmented-reality headset. And everyone from Google to Toyota is building autonomous cars that will need similar chips.

This trend toward specialty chips and a new computer architecture could lead to a “Cambrian explosion” of artificial intelligence, said Gill Pratt, who was a program manager at Darpa, a research arm of the United States Department of Defense, and now works on driverless cars at Toyota. As he sees it, machines that spread computations across vast numbers of tiny, low-power chips can operate more like the human brain, which efficiently uses the energy at its disposal.

“In the brain, energy efficiency is the key,” he said during a recent interview at Toyota’s new research center in Silicon Valley.

Change on the Horizon

There are many kinds of silicon chips. There are chips that store information. There are chips that perform basic tasks in toys and televisions. And there are chips that run various processes for computers, from the supercomputers used to create models for global warming to personal computers, internet servers and smartphones.

For years, the central processing units, or C.P.U.s, that ran PCs and similar devices were where the money was. And there had not been much need for change.

In accordance with Moore’s Law, the oft-quoted maxim from Intel co-founder Gordon Moore, the number of transistors on a computer chip had doubled every two years or so, and that provided steadily improved performance for decades. As performance improved, chips consumed about the same amount of power, according to another, lesser-known law of chip design called Dennard scaling, named for the longtime IBM researcher Robert Dennard.

By 2010, however, doubling the number of transistors was taking much longer than Moore’s Law predicted. Dennard’s scaling maxim had also been upended as chip designers ran into the limits of the physical materials they used to build processors. The result: If a company wanted more computing power, it could not just upgrade its processors. It needed more computers, more space and more electricity.

Researchers in industry and academia were working to extend Moore’s Law, exploring entirely new chip materials and design techniques. But Doug Burger, a researcher at Microsoft, had another idea: Rather than rely on the steady evolution of the central processor, as the industry had been doing since the 1960s, why not move some of the load onto specialized chips?

During his Christmas vacation in 2010, Mr. Burger, working with a few other chip researchers inside Microsoft, began exploring new hardware that could accelerate the performance of Bing, the company’s internet search engine.

At the time, Microsoft was just beginning to improve Bing using machine-learning algorithms (neural networks are a type of machine learning) that could improve search results by analyzing the way people used the service. Though these algorithms were less demanding than the neural networks that would later remake the internet, existing chips had trouble keeping up.

Mr. Burger and his team explored several options but eventually settled on something called Field Programmable Gate Arrays, or F.P.G.A.s.: chips that could be reprogrammed for new jobs on the fly. Microsoft builds software, like Windows, that runs on an Intel C.P.U. But such software cannot reprogram the chip, since it is hard-wired to perform only certain tasks.

With an F.P.G.A., Microsoft could change the way the chip works. It could program the chip to be really good at executing particular machine learning algorithms. Then, it could reprogram the chip to be really good at running logic that sends the millions and millions of data packets across its computer network. It was the same chip but it behaved in a different way.

Microsoft started to install the chips en masse in 2015. Now, just about every new server loaded into a Microsoft data center includes one of these programmable chips. They help choose the results when you search Bing, and they help Azure, Microsoft’s cloud-computing service, shuttle information across its network of underlying machines.

Teaching Computers to Listen

In fall 2016, another team of Microsoft researchers — mirroring the work done by Jeff Dean at Google — built a neural network that could, by one measure at least, recognize spoken words more accurately than the average human could.

Xuedong Huang, a speech-recognition specialist who was born in China, led the effort, and shortly after the team published a paper describing its work, he had dinner in the hills above Palo Alto, Calif., with his old friend Jen-Hsun Huang, (no relation), the chief executive of the chipmaker Nvidia. The men had reason to celebrate, and they toasted with a bottle of champagne.

Xuedong Huang and his fellow Microsoft researchers had trained their speech-recognition service using large numbers of specialty chips supplied by Nvidia, rather than relying heavily on ordinary Intel chips. Their breakthrough would not have been possible had they not made that change.

“We closed the gap with humans in about a year,” Microsoft’s Mr. Huang said. “If we didn’t have the weapon — the infrastructure — it would have taken at least five years.”

Because systems that rely on neural networks can learn largely on their own, they can evolve more quickly than traditional services. They are not as reliant on engineers writing endless lines of code that explain how they should behave.

But there is a wrinkle: Training neural networks this way requires extensive trial and error. To create one that is able to recognize words as well as a human can, researchers must train it repeatedly, tweaking the algorithms and improving the training data over and over. At any given time, this process unfolds over hundreds of algorithms. That requires enormous computing power, and if companies like Microsoft use standard-issue chips to do it, the process takes far too long because the chips cannot handle the load and too much electrical power is consumed.

So, the leading internet companies are now training their neural networks with help from another type of chip called a graphics processing unit, or G.P.U. These low-power chips — usually made by Nvidia — were originally designed to render images for games and other software, and they worked hand-in-hand with the chip — usually made by Intel — at the center of a computer. G.P.U.s can process the math required by neural networks far more efficiently than C.P.U.s.

Nvidia is thriving as a result, and it is now selling large numbers of G.P.U.s to the internet giants of the United States and the biggest online companies around the world, in China most notably. The company’s quarterly revenue from data center sales tripled to $409 million over the past year.

“This is a little like being right there at the beginning of the internet,” Jen-Hsun Huang said in a recent interview. In other words, the tech landscape is changing rapidly, and Nvidia is at the heart of that change.

Creating Specialized Chips

G.P.U.s are the primary vehicles that companies use to teach their neural networks a particular task, but that is only part of the process. Once a neural network is trained for a task, it must perform it, and that requires a different kind of computing power.

After training a speech-recognition algorithm, for example, Microsoft offers it up as an online service, and it actually starts identifying commands that people speak into their smartphones. G.P.U.s are not quite as efficient during this stage of the process. So, many companies are now building chips specifically to do what the other chips have learned.

Google built its own specialty chip, a Tensor Processing Unit, or T.P.U. Nvidia is building a similar chip. And Microsoft has reprogrammed specialized chips from Altera, which was acquired by Intel, so that it too can run neural networks more easily.

Other companies are following suit. Qualcomm, which specializes in chips for smartphones, and a number of start-ups are also working on A.I. chips, hoping to grab their piece of the rapidly expanding market. The tech research firm IDC predicts that revenue from servers equipped with alternative chips will reach $6.8 billion by 2021, about 10 percent of the overall server market.

Across Microsoft’s global network of machines, Mr. Burger pointed out, alternative chips are still a relatively modest part of the operation. And Bart Sano, the vice president of engineering who leads hardware and software development for Google’s network, said much the same about the chips deployed at its data centers.

Mike Mayberry, who leads Intel Labs, played down the shift toward alternative processors, perhaps because Intel controls more than 90 percent of the data-center market, making it by far the largest seller of traditional chips. He said that if central processors were modified the right way, they could handle new tasks without added help.

But this new breed of silicon is spreading rapidly, and Intel is increasingly a company in conflict with itself. It is in some ways denying that the market is changing, but nonetheless shifting its business to keep up with the change.

Two years ago, Intel spent $16.7 billion to acquire Altera, which builds the programmable chips that Microsoft uses. It was Intel’s largest acquisition ever. Last year, the company paid a reported $408 million buying Nervana, a company that was exploring a chip just for executing neural networks. Now, led by the Nervana team, Intel is developing a dedicated chip for training and executing neural networks.

“They have the traditional big-company problem,” said Bill Coughran, a partner at the Silicon Valley venture capital firm Sequoia Capital who spent nearly a decade helping to oversee Google’s online infrastructure, referring to Intel. “They need to figure out how to move into the new and growing areas without damaging their traditional business.”

Intel’s internal conflict is most apparent when company officials discuss the decline of Moore’s Law. During a recent interview with The New York Times, Naveen Rao, the Nervana founder and now an Intel executive, said Intel could squeeze “a few more years” out of Moore’s Law. Officially, the company’s position is that improvements in traditional chips will continue well into the next decade.

Mr. Mayberry of Intel also argued that the use of additional chips was not new. In the past, he said, computer makers used separate chips for tasks like processing audio.

But now the scope of the trend is significantly larger. And it is changing the market in new ways. Intel is competing not only with chipmakers like Nvidia and Qualcomm, but also with companies like Google and Microsoft.

Google is designing the second generation of its T.P.U. chips. Later this year, the company said, any business or developer that is a customer of its cloud-computing service will be able to use the new chips to run its software.

While this shift is happening mostly inside the massive data centers that underpin the internet, it is probably a matter of time before it permeates the broader industry.

The hope is that this new breed of mobile chip can help devices handle more, and more complex, tasks on their own, without calling back to distant data centers: phones recognizing spoken commands without accessing the internet; driverless cars recognizing the world around them with a speed and accuracy that is not possible now.

In other words, a driverless car needs cameras and radar and lasers. But it also needs a brain.

Lurid Lawsuit’s Quiet End Leaves Silicon Valley Start-Up Barely Dented

SAN FRANCISCO — At Upload, the parties never seemed to stop.

The start-up began by hosting impromptu gatherings to promote virtual reality as the next big thing. It quickly became an entertainment and news hub for the VR industry, hosting hundreds of events. The crowds were young and eager to network. Models did demos, and the liquor flowed.

The freewheeling atmosphere was not restricted to the evening hours. There was a “rampant sexual behavior and focus” in the Upload office that created “an unbearable environment,” a former employee, Elizabeth Scott, said in a lawsuit filed in May.

Elizabeth Scott, a former employee of Upload, sued the start-up in May, claiming “an unbearable environment.”

Ms. Scott said in her suit that the Upload office had a room with a bed “to encourage sexual intercourse at the workplace.” It was referred to as the kink room. Men who worked for the company were described in the suit as frequently talking about being so sexually aroused by female colleagues that it was impossible to concentrate. When Ms. Scott, Upload’s digital media manager, complained about the hostile atmosphere and other issues in March with her supervisor, she was fired, the suit said.

In a statement after the suit was filed, Upload said that “our employees are our greatest asset” and that “these allegations are entirely without merit.” The company said Upload’s chief executive, Taylor Freeman, and president, Will Mason, could not discuss the lawsuit and its specifics. On Friday, as this article neared publication, the men issued another statement that said, “We let you down and we are sorry.”

At a time when Silicon Valley is filled with tales of harassment and discrimination against women — just this week, the chief executive of the lending start-up Social Finance resigned amid accusations of sexual misbehavior — the purported behavior at Upload stands out. Ms. Scott said in the suit that while she was at a conference in San Jose, Calif., Mr. Freeman kicked her out of her room in Upload’s rented house so he could use it for sex.

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If the claims were striking, so was the response.

In contrast to the venture capitalists who were knocked off their perches this summer by harassment complaints, Upload was scarcely dented by the publicity surrounding Ms. Scott’s suit. Mr. Freeman and Mr. Mason were not forced to resign. Investors did not pull their money. The company’s events continued, if in terms that were a bit more muted.

A few weeks ago, the suit was crossed off Upload’s to-do list when it was quietly settled for a modest sum, said two people with knowledge of the case who asked to remain anonymous because they were not authorized to speak publicly.

Both sides had an incentive to come to terms: Upload could say the problem was now in its past, and Ms. Scott, 26, got a victory of sorts without the risk of going to trial.

Shortly after Ms. Scott filed her suit, at least a half-dozen members of Upload’s team quit in solidarity, but they did not go public with their complaints. (At its peak, the company had about 20 to 25 employees.) In interviews, two of those who left described what happened but said that even though they were now working elsewhere, they did not want their names used.

“A lot of people were afraid to be in the media,” said another former employee, Danny Bittman, who broke his silence with a piece in Medium this week in support of Ms. Scott. “We were scared of everything that was happening.”

Behind the scenes, in members-only Facebook groups and other forums, the virtual reality industry is still roiled. People have opinions, they just do not want to be caught uttering them.

“People privately assumed the worst — that the Upload allegations are all true,” said Kent Bye, who does a popular industry podcast, Voices of VR. “Or they assumed the opposite — that the allegations are salacious, crazy and can be ignored. Regardless, they don’t want to risk their career by publicly talking about a connecting node for the entire industry.”

In more than two dozen interviews for this story, even those inclined to see Upload in the most favorable light said it was the story of a company run by young, immature men who were flush with cash and did not know how to handle their power.

That is true of many Silicon Valley start-ups. Some grow out of it. Others, like Uber — which fired 20 employees this year in a harassment scandal that ultimately pushed out much of its top management team — do not until they are forced to.

The situation at Upload was particularly fraught because its principal product was parties. In the great tradition of Silicon Valley start-ups, the company was less interested in making a profit than in getting attention, said former employees. So the line between work and play, often fuzzy, was entirely erased.

The existence of the kink room became the enduring symbol of Upload as soon as Ms. Scott filed her suit. Employees of the porn site Kink.com came to an early Upload party and left behind a sign, said two people with knowledge of the events. It became the name of a room toward the front of the office, a narrow chamber equipped with a bed.

“There was a lack of leadership to cultivate a healthy work environment, and investors who failed to take a more active role in oversight,” Mr. Bye said. “The only way to resolve these sorts of problems is to confront them head on, and that is precisely what no one seemed prepared to do.”

Tech’s Fresh Start

Upload was founded in 2014 as entrepreneurs — many of them women — flocked to virtual reality. There was a feeling of vast potential in the young industry, a sense of being able to make a mark by moving quickly and meeting the right people.

Upload was the place to do it. Two of the founders — a third had dropped out — were in their mid-20s, with energy and ideas but not many credentials. Mr. Freeman, the chief executive, listed “backpacking in Europe” and “freelance user experience designer” on his résumé.

Before becoming Upload’s president, Mr. Mason was an intern at a Florida design studio. A 2014 graduate of Stetson University in Florida, he began an online petition at Change.org in 2015 to remove the school’s first female president, Wendy Libby, labeling her “cancer.” The petition got little support.

“I tend to be fairly passionate about things and wear my heart on my sleeve,” Mr. Mason explained in an email about his petition. “Looking back, there are definitely ways I would handle this differently.”

Although Upload’s ambitions were ill-defined, the company was popular from the start. It quickly raised $1.25 million. One of its most prominent early investors was Joe Kraus, a Silicon Valley veteran who is now at GV, Alphabet’s venture capital arm. Mr. Kraus, who invested $25,000 of his own money in Upload, was described by the company as an adviser. He declined to be interviewed.

Larger sums came from Shanda Group in China and, in a second funding round of $4.5 million, Colopl, a Japanese mobile gaming company. Colopl’s Shintaro Yamakami is the only non-Upload employee on the company’s board. A spokeswoman for Mr. Yamakami said he was currently “refraining from public relations activity.” A spokeswoman for Shanda, an investment firm, said, “We do not have comments to offer.”

Ms. Scott joined Upload in April 2016. She had graduated in 2012 from Emory University, where she was president of a group called the Alliance for Sexual Assault Prevention.

She declined to be interviewed. Her mother, Jenny Scott of Gainesville, Fla., said, “Elizabeth had several incidents growing up that targeted her physical safety and developed her sense of right and wrong.”

Ms. Scott, whose Facebook page describes her as “short, sassy & blonde. Take it or leave it,” managed the stories generated by Upload’s writing team on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Snapchat, Instagram and YouTube, produced videos and handled relationships with software developers.

She said in the suit that she had other work, too: The women at Upload were required to do what were called “womanly tasks,” including cleaning up. They were also told to act like “mommies” to the men and help them with whatever they needed.

The suit presented a portrait of a deeply entitled male culture, one that clashed with the fresh start VR seemed to offer the tech industry. But Ms. Scott’s suit was the second in the virtual reality industry in just a few months to present such an unwelcoming picture.

Magic Leap, a VR start-up backed by Google and other high-profile investors, had been sued in February by a woman who said in her complaint that she had been hired to make the company more diverse and friendly to women.

The woman, Tannen Campbell, said in court papers that she had challenged Magic Leap “to acknowledge the depths of misogyny” in its culture that “renders it so dysfunctional” it threatened the company. The suit accused the company of gender discrimination and retaliation, which Magic Leap denied. It was settled in May.

Across the tech industry, sexual harassment appears to be ingrained. While the research is largely anecdotal and fragmentary, Chloe Hart, a Ph.D. candidate in sociology at Stanford University, said the subject came up often in 27 in-depth interviews she had with female engineers about their social interactions at work.

Two-thirds of the women, Ms. Hart said, had experienced unwanted sexual interactions, such as being groped or kissed, or hearing comments about the physical attractiveness of women colleagues and sexual jokes or references that made them uncomfortable. One-third talked about men they worked with expressing romantic interest that was not reciprocated.

This and other surveys suggest that in some ways, Silicon Valley has not evolved much over 50 years, even as more and younger women arrived.

Some young women said they did not expect much from Silicon Valley. Amanda Joan, a VR developer, said the “misogynistic and lewd culture” described in Ms. Scott’s suit was as common to Silicon Valley as heavy traffic and expensive housing.

“If I were to boycott every organization that exhibited such culture and behavior (publicly or behind closed doors), I would be severely limited in my options,” Ms. Joan wrote on LinkedIn last month. “Honestly, I wouldn’t hold my breath that there would be any left unless I moved to Wonder Woman’s home island.”

‘A Boisterous Culture’

About 11 months after Ms. Scott joined Upload, Ms. Scott said in her suit, she complained to a supervisor about the office atmosphere, about being shunned by Mr. Freeman and Mr. Mason and about being paid less for equal work and forced to perform menial and demeaning tasks. She was subsequently fired.

That was in March, after Mr. Freeman and Mr. Mason had been named to Forbes’ 30 Under 30 list of rising stars.

All the success on the surface masked a workplace where, one former employee said, “women are seen as the candy in the room.” At Upload events, VR technology was demonstrated by women hired from a company called Models in Tech. Ms. Scott’s suit said the founders tried to secure “submissive Asian women” for a fund-raising trip to Asia.

“Upload was a boisterous culture, a ‘bro’ culture,” said another former employee, Greg Gopman, in an interview. “Virtual reality is hyped and no one was hyping it more than Upload. Within the industry, they were loved for giving people attention in the most positive way. They had a lot of clout and were able to act as they wanted until someone called them out.”

Mr. Gopman, 33, is mentioned in Ms. Scott’s suit. Other male employees, the suit said, would talk about how he “refuses to wear a condom” and “has had sex with over 1,000 people.”

When asked about being mentioned in the suit, Mr. Gopman, who has drawn attention in tech circles before for criticizing homeless people, said he was not happy about it. “How am I going to get married some day if I have to explain that?” he asked. Upload declined to comment on its former employee.

Mr. Freeman, the chief executive, said in an interview that the company was moving on. The lesson he learned, he said, was that employees need to talk more, and that especially in times of trouble they need someone to hear their complaints. Under the agreement to end Ms. Scott’s suit, Mr. Freeman was precluded from discussing it.

“A lot of things could be avoided if there is an open line of communication,” he said. “Once you have five people, male or female, at a start-up you need external HR. Not having someone to go talk to about your potential concerns just makes it so much worse.”

He added, “We’re the strongest as a company that we’ve ever been because of this.”

As for Ms. Scott, she now works for a camera company. She told friends that she had numerous interviews with VR companies, but as soon as they found out she had filed suit against her previous employer, they all declined to hire her.

Sheriff’s Badge

A woman runs Upload now. Kind of.

Anne Ahola Ward, a specialist in increasing internet traffic, was a consultant to Upload. In June, when many of the employees were quitting, she proposed taking over. Her title is chief operating officer.

“Anne has had a lot of experience, and experience is a huge thing,” Mr. Freeman said. He demurred when asked whether she was the “adult supervision” that all start-ups are said to need. “We’re all adults here,” he said.

Ms. Ward, 38, is wry about the opportunity.

“I’m a woman in Silicon Valley,” she said. “Do you think someone would have handed me the keys to a start-up that wasn’t beleaguered?” Her husband asked the obvious question: Why aren’t you the chief executive? “The title isn’t important to me,” she said.

The kink room is now Ms. Ward’s office. There is no bed there. She has instituted mandatory anti-harassment training: a two-hour session led by an outside consultant. There is now a human resources department. People have formal job descriptions. And as a joke — but not quite — people in the office gave Ms. Ward a sheriff’s badge.

Correction: September 15, 2017

An earlier version of this article incorrectly reported Elizabeth Scott’s age. She is 26, not 27.

‘It Was a Frat House’: Inside the Sex Scandal That Toppled SoFi’s C.E.O.

SAN FRANCISCO — For months, the text messages came. Some were flirtatious, asking her to meet him late at night. Sometimes, the texts were sexually explicit.

The messages were directed at Laura Munoz, an executive assistant at the online lending start-up Social Finance. The texts were from her boss, Mike Cagney, the company’s chief executive, according to five people who spoke with Ms. Munoz or saw the messages. Given Mr. Cagney’s stature at Social Finance, known as SoFi, Ms. Munoz was at a disadvantage.

That became apparent when SoFi’s board was informed of Mr. Cagney’s communications with Ms. Munoz in late 2012. The board said it found no evidence of a sexual relationship. Ms. Munoz was then paid about $75,000 to leave the company, according to three people familiar with the proceedings who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk publicly. Ivo Labar, a lawyer representing Ms. Munoz, said matters were resolved between his client and SoFi.

Around the same time, SoFi’s board and executives also heard complaints from investors that Mr. Cagney had made misstatements to them over the start-up’s student loan products, according to emails between investors, executives and the board that were obtained by The New York Times. Directors stood by Mr. Cagney in that instance, too.

The board’s support allowed Mr. Cagney to build SoFi into a fast-growing start-up that is trying to take on the big banks by offering lending, insurance and asset management online. The company has been valued at more than $4 billion.

But within SoFi, Mr. Cagney, a married father of two, continued to raise questions among employees with his behavior. He was seen holding hands and having intimate conversations with another young female employee, according to six employees who saw the two together. At late-night, wine-soaked gatherings with colleagues, he bragged about his sexual conquests and the size of his genitalia, said employees who heard the comments.

Mr. Cagney’s actions were echoed in other parts of SoFi. The company’s chief financial officer talked openly about women’s breasts and once offered female employees bonuses for losing weight, according to more than a dozen people who heard his comments. Some employees said on a few instances, they caught colleagues having sex with supervisors at SoFi’s main satellite office in Healdsburg, Calif., which was the subject of a sexual harassment lawsuit filed last month.

Even as other Silicon Valley companies such as ride-hailing giant Uber have been in the spotlight this year for inappropriate treatment of women, Mr. Cagney’s case goes a step further. Although many of the issues at other firms stemmed from the actions of midlevel executives or investors, Mr. Cagney personally faces questions about his role. His conduct was described by more than 30 current and former employees, most of whom asked to remain anonymous for fear of retribution.

The behavior went largely unchecked until Monday, when SoFi’s board acted after weeks of growing scrutiny of the company. The start-up said Mr. Cagney, 46, would leave as chief executive by the end of the year and that he would step down immediately as chairman. In a statement announcing Mr. Cagney’s departure, SoFi did not explain the executive change.

The company said its business was performing well, and that SoFi was becoming a “major, innovative player in consumer finance.” A SoFi spokesman said the company did not comment on personnel matters and disputed that its business had taken on too much risk. Through the spokesman, Mr. Cagney also said he “vehemently denies” any improprieties at after-hours events with colleagues.

Yet Mr. Cagney’s position had become increasingly delicate after the filing of the sexual harassment suit, which accused him of “empowering other managers to engage in sexual conduct in the workplace.”

His situation was also exacerbated by claims about his approach to SoFi’s business, which uses money from Wall Street investors to fund student loans, personal loans and mortgages. At several points, Mr. Cagney ignored warnings from colleagues that he was being too aggressive with the business, according to more than a dozen employees who were involved in the conversations.

That included a time when Mr. Cagney decided to put customer service representatives in charge of lending determinations, despite them having no experience in the area. Another time, he told investors that SoFi had $90 million in debt financing for a loan product; the company did not in fact have the money, according to the internal emails reviewed by The Times.

SoFi’s board, which includes representatives of Japanese conglomerate SoftBank and the influential hedge fund Third Point Capital, now faces questions about whether it needed more checks and balances on Mr. Cagney.

Companies like SoFi show how boards are incentivized to prioritize cash flow and growth over governance, said David F. Larcker, a professor at Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business who specializes in corporate governance. “The board now has a duty to correct for things that have gone wrong,” he said.

The board said that it found “no allegation or evidence of a romantic or sexual relationship” between Mr. Cagney and Ms. Munoz and referred all other questions to SoFi.

Workplace Pursuits

Mr. Cagney, who was born in New Jersey, started his career in finance in 1994 at Wells Fargo, where he climbed the ranks to the trading desk. He later left the giant bank to begin a financial software company, and then his own hedge fund, Cabezon, in 2005. On the side, he attended Stanford’s business school.

In 2011, Mr. Cagney began SoFi with several co-founders. The start-up, established as venture capitalists were getting excited about financial technology, raised nearly $100 million in its first year. In total, SoFi has now taken in $1.9 billion from investors including SoftBank, Discovery Capital and Baseline Ventures.

Even with other co-founders, Mr. Cagney quickly established himself as the company’s center of gravity. SoFi’s offices, with glassed-in conference rooms and cheap Ikea furniture, were set up in San Francisco’s Presidio, the park near the Golden Gate Bridge, because Mr. Cagney’s hedge fund already had its offices there. His home was less than a mile away.

Mr. Cagney exhibited an aggressive attitude at the office that he may have learned as a trader at Wells Fargo. He sometimes shouted obscenities and excoriated employees in front of others when they made mistakes.

Mr. Cagney hired deputies who had similar characteristics. One was Nino Fanlo, a former executive at Goldman Sachs and the private equity firm Kohlberg Kravis Roberts, who became SoFi’s chief financial officer in 2012.

Mr. Fanlo, 57, sometimes kicked trash cans in the office when angry. He also commented on women’s figures, including their breasts; said that women would be happier as homemakers; and once told two female employees he would give them $5,000 if they lost 30 pounds by the end of the year, according to more than a dozen people who heard the comments and witnessed the weight-loss offer.

Mr. Fanlo said it was “patently false” that he did not respect women and that his team at SoFi had many women who received promotions and professional accolades. He also attributed his shouting and kicking of trash cans to frustration about deals and start-up pressures.

“You’re under extraordinary pressures at a company that is growing that fast,” Mr. Fanlo said.

More than two dozen former SoFi employees said they were uncomfortable with Mr. Cagney’s pursuit of women in the office. In 2012, he sent the text messages to Ms. Munoz, the executive assistant, until her colleagues took the issue up with executives and the board, according to the five people who spoke with Ms. Munoz about the matter.

Even as Mr. Cagney was texting Ms. Munoz, he also chased another young female employee. Six employees said they saw Mr. Cagney and the employee holding hands and talking intimately. One day in 2013, when Mr. Cagney was flirting with her at the office in front of colleagues, she grew enraged and left, according to three employees who witnessed the episode. Soon after, she left the company.

Around that time, SoFi’s board asked Mr. Cagney to not engage in inappropriate conduct with employees, according to two people with knowledge of the conversations. The situations were awkward in the office given that Mr. Cagney’s wife, June Ou, began working at SoFi in 2012, rising to become the company’s chief technical officer. Her desk was near Mr. Cagney’s. Ms. Ou did not respond to a request for comment.

Pushing the Business

SoFi’s business works in the following way: It loans money to students, home buyers and individuals with high credit scores. The company funds those loans with money from hedge funds and banks, who buy the loans through securities or bonds that SoFi creates.

As early as 2012, Mr. Cagney ran into trouble with some of his investors. That year, the company said it had secured $90 million in debt financing for one of its loan products, called Refi A. But some investors who had bought the securities noticed their returns were not in keeping with SoFi’s estimates and voiced concerns to executives and to a board member, according to the emails obtained by The Times.

About 10 SoFi executives met to discuss the situation; it was then that some of them learned Mr. Cagney had not actually secured the $90 million for the loan product, according to people who were at the meeting. Some attendees said they were dismayed at the possibility that they had made material misstatements to investors.

In October 2012, SoFi bought back the Refi A securities from investors for what they had paid, plus the investment return they had anticipated, or gave them the option to put their money into a different product. Mr. Cagney said in an investor letter that the product had been “imperfect,” but did not offer any details about the $90 million. The SoFi spokesman said that “no consumers were harmed in the process.”

In 2015, SoFi began offering mortgages. In meetings with the compliance officer overseeing the program, Mr. Cagney was told that SoFi was not doing enough to document the income of borrowers and was rushing to offer loans more quickly than competitors did, according to a person involved in the mortgage business. A SoFi spokesman said the company complied with all laws.

Mr. Cagney also led a push into personal loans last year. To strengthen that business, he asked customer service representatives to review and approve loans, a job that had previously been done by the company’s underwriters, said two people involved in the loan business. Many employees opposed the change because customer service representatives do not have the experience of approving loans, but the move helped SoFi double the amount of loans it issued in just a few months.

That created another problem: SoFi did not have enough money to fund all the loans it was giving out. Mr. Cagney told employees that because of the funding shortfall, it could take as long as 30 days for some new customers to get the money they borrowed. But the employees who dealt with the customers were told by a supervisor to say that people would still get the money within 72 hours as promised.

“We had to lie to them and tell them that we were a little behind or that the transfer got lost — just something to keep them off our backs,” said Marie Lombard, who worked from 2014 to 2016 at SoFi’s operations center in Healdsburg.

Mr. Cagney eventually took customer service representatives off the underwriting decisions.

A SoFi spokesman said that customer service representatives did not approve loans and that the company’s proprietary software made those decisions. He added that SoFi always communicated timing changes on its loans to borrowers and that delays have never run as high as 30 days.

An Internal Toll

Mr. Cagney’s risk-taking outside of SoFi also created problems. In January 2015, his hedge fund, Cabezon, suffered big losses on a currency trade. In the aftermath, SoFi’s board agreed to buy Cabezon for $3.25 million and give the hedge fund’s employees jobs at SoFi. That caused resentment at SoFi among some workers.

A SoFi spokesman said the company bought Mr. Cagney’s hedge fund partly because the board was concerned about Mr. Cagney’s ability to focus on both companies.

At the time, SoFi was growing rapidly. Since 2011, when it had five people in a one-room office, the company has grown to 1,200 employees and lent more than $20 billion to about 350,000 customers. Earlier this year, the private equity firm Silver Lake Partners led a new round of fund-raising that gave SoFi another $500 million and valued the company at $4.3 billion.

Mr. Cagney’s co-founders nonetheless left the company one by one, and Mr. Fanlo departed this summer. (Mr. Fanlo said that he left to pursue a new opportunity.)

In 2015, an anonymous email was sent to everyone in the company, complaining in detail about the work environment and nepotism in hiring, according to five employees who received the email. SoFi said that it takes every complaint seriously.

At the start-up’s office in Healdsburg, Yulia Zamora, who worked as an underwriter there from 2015 to 2016, said it often seemed as if there were no rules. She said she was propositioned by a supervisor numerous times.

“It was a frat house,” Ms. Zamora said. “You would find people having sex in their cars and in the parking lot. It was a free-for-all.”’

SoFi has recently been taking steps to contain the damage. Earlier this month, the company started an investigation into the harassment claims in the Healdsburg satellite office. At the same time, questions over Mr. Cagney’s own behavior also surfaced.

In recent days, Mr. Cagney canceled a trip to Singapore to attend a board meeting at SoFi’s offices in San Francisco on Monday. At the meeting, Mr. Cagney argued for his job — but eventually lost out to board members who viewed him as a liability, according to two people with knowledge of the meeting.

“I want SoFi to focus on helping members, hiring the best people, and growing our company in a way consistent with our values,” Mr. Cagney wrote in a letter announcing his departure. “That can’t happen as well as it should if people are focused on me, which isn’t fair to our members, investors, or you.”

Gap between rising prices and pay widens as wage growth figures disappoint; unemployment drops to 4.3pc

Market report

Concerns that Imagination Technologies’ Apple earnings will disappear earlier than expected sent the takeover target sliding as the new iPhone’s delayed release sunk suppliers across the globe.

While some of Imagination’s intellectual property remains in the new iPhone X, Apple stated that it has designed the graphics processing unit (GPU) in the new product, hinting that the company will begin to phase-out its relationship with the Hertfordshire-based company, which had derived around half of its revenues from the Silicon Valley giant.

Nearly £470m was wiped off Imagination’s valuation overnight in April after Apple revealed that it was ditching the company and making its own GPU from 2018.

Decimated by the share price plummet, the company then put itself up for sale with Beijing-backed private equity fund Canyon Bridge Capital Partners rumoured to be in the running. It appears, however, that the world’s largest listed company has fast-forwarded its plans to take full control of its products’ GPU, weakening Imagination 7.3p, or 5.1pc, to 135.8p.

If confirmed, it would mean less per device Apple royalty payments a year earlier than expected, said Stifel analyst Lee Simpson.

The iPhone X’s delayed November release date took the shine off the tech giant’s latest unveiling with unimpressed investors dumping shares in suppliers reliant on a strong Apple sales boost in the fourth quarter of the year.

Tiny Welsh chipmaker IQE, whose share price has tripled since speculation mounted that the company would be integral to the new iPhone’s 3D-tracking technology, was one of Apple’s victims, retreating 10.3p to 136.8p.

Over in the US, Apple continued to fall, shedding another 1pc after the opening bell in New York as traders attempted to decipher the impact of the tech firm’s delayed release on earnings.

Elsewhere, industrial metal producers torpedoed the FTSE 100 as copper slipped to pull down miners Glencore and Rio Tinto 8.9p to 363.6p and 66p to £36.25, respectively.

BP and Royal Dutch Shell ‘B’ climbing 3.5p to 452.4p and 14p to £21.92, respectively, on the price of oil rallying mitigated the blue-chip index’s 20.99-point fall to 7379.70, however. Brent crude prices advanced 1pc to just under $55 per barrel after the International Energy Agency forecast higher demand in 2017 as OPEC’s production begins to ebb, encouraging traders that the oil market is finally beginning to rebalance.

Finally, newspaper publisher Johnston Press popped 0.13p to 12.8p after private equity firm Custos upped its stake in the I and The Scotsman publisher from 5pc to just over 8pc.

5:13PM

Markets wrap: Squeeze on UK households tightens as wage growth figures disappoint

High inflation and stagnant wage growth has muddied Mark Carney and the MPC’s decision 

The squeeze on UK households got a little tighter today after the ONS confirmed that wage growth lags far behind rising inflation, knocking hopes of an early interest rate rise.

While unemployment dropped to a fresh 42-year low at 4.3pc, the tighter labour market couldn’t pull up wages, which stagnated at 2.1pc in the three months to July.

Hawkish hopes of an early rate hike were ignited yesterday when inflation jumped to 2.9pc but sluggish wage growth has added another layer of uncertainty with the Bank of England Monetary Policy Committee due to meet tomorrow.

Although no change in policy is expected in tomorrow’s meeting, inflation soaring well ahead of the bank’s 2pc target has cranked up the pressure on Mark Carney and the MPC with chief economist Andy Haldane deemed the most likely to jump ship to the hawks.

The pound coming off a one-year high against the dollar following the job figures couldn’t help the FTSE 100, which has been sunk by miners retreating on the price of copper slipping.

IG market analyst Joshua Mahony explained the miners’ drag on the FTSE 100 today:

“Miners provided a drag upon the FTSE 100 throughout today’s session, as the deterioration in both precious and industrial metals dragged the likes of Antofagasta, Anglo American, Fresnillo and Glencore to the bottom of the leaderboard.

“Copper was today’s big loser amongst a sea of red for metals, while a selloff in gold in the face of equity market weakness saw the precious metal finally trade like a physical commodity rather than just a safe haven asset.”

4:34PM

Hospital drugs firm Clinigen snaps up troubled rival Quantum for £150m

Clinigen supplies drugs to hospitals

One of the largest companies on London’s junior market Aim, hospital drugs supplier Clinigen, has agreed a deal to snap up troubled rival Quantum Pharma for £150m.

The news sent shares in Quantum Pharma up 18pc. However, its suitor, which has a market cap of over £1.1bn, suffered a 3pc fall as investors mulled over the tie-up.

The offer is for 37p in cash and 0.0405 new Clinigen shares per Quantum share.

Shaun Clinton, chief executive of Clinigen, told the Telegraph the move would boost its ability to supply novel drugs to clinicians and enable it to expand further into continental Europe.

He said further acquisitions could be on the cards, saying: “We would consider further bolt-on deals to add speciality pharma products or to extend our geographical footprint.”

Read Iain Withers’ full report here

4:20PM

US markets lose steam after jumping to record closes

Apple and energy shares are engaging in a tug of war in the US

After jumping to record all-time closes yesterday, the Dow Jones and S&P 500 have lost their steam slightly over in the US this afternoon.

Both indices are in flat territory with the tug of war between Apple’s 1.2pc retreat and energy stocks buoyed by stronger prices resulting in a flat finish.

Buyers are running out of steam, according to CMC Markets analyst David Madden.

He commented:

“Stock markets in Europe are experiencing low volatility as the rally that we saw at the start of the week has lost momentum.

“The bullish sentiment on the back of Hurricane Irma not being as severe as predicted, and no new tensions in relation to North Korea, has been replaced with a lacklustre attitude. You could say traders are pausing for breath, after the positive run.”

3:52PM

Blackpool Airport returns to public ownership after 13 years as Balfour Beatty sells stake

Simon Blackburn, leader of Blackpool Council, said today’s sale would protect the 30 people currently employed by the airport

Balfour Beatty has agreed to sell its majority stake in Blackpool Airport to the council, as the local authority looks to protect the future of the site.

Construction company Balfour agreed the deal to sell 95pc of the airport for £4.25m, saying that it “further simplifies the portfolio, in line with the group’s strategy”.

Blackpool Council had originally owned the airport until 2004, when it sold the stake to a consortium led by City Hopper Airports and Mar Properties for £13m. The council retained the remaining 5pc, while the rest was sold to Balfour Beatty in 2008.

However, falling passenger numbers and a legal dispute with operator Jet2 over the opening hours of the airport led to the site falling into administration in 2014.

Read Rhiannon Bury’s full report here

3:25PM

Jobs growth accelerates but pay disappoints in interest rate dilemma for Carney 

Unemployment tumbled to a new 42-year low in July, with more Britons than ever before in work.

Private and public hiring picked up in the three months to July with employment rising by 181,364, the fastest pace of jobs growth since 2015. More than 31.2m people are now in work, while joblessness dropped to 1.46m, or 4.3pc – a low not seen since mid-1975.

Employers appear keen to keep on hiring as the Office for National Statistics found 774,000 vacancies in August, a modest rise on the month.

The number of public sector workers also rose for the first time in a year to 5.44m.

Read Tim Wallace’s full report here

2:58PM

Galliford Try avoids large infrastructure projects as charge on legacy contracts hits profits  

Peter Truscott, Galliford’s chief executive, said that the company was remaining “cautious” about the impact of political uncertainty and the outlook for the macro economy

The developer and construction company Galliford Try has said it will no longer bid for large fixed-price infrastructure contracts after its profits were hit by a charge on legacy contracts. 

Pre-tax profits fell nearly 60pc to £59m due to the £98m charge it announced in May, relating to problem legacy contracts for the the Queensferry Crossing and part of a road in Aberdeen. But the company posted a 7pc rise in revenues to £2.7bn in the 12 months to June 30, and a 9pc increase in pre-tax profits excluding exceptional items including the charge.

Galliford added that the amount set aside was unchanged and it was making “good progress” on its target to increase profits by 60pc by 2021.

Its housebuilding arm, Linden Homes, and the regeneration division both reported stronger results, with operating profits up 16pc and 27pc respectively, but the construction side suffered, with margins on its underlying business squeezed to virtually nothing. 

Read Isabelle Fraser’s full report here

Galliford Try
2:40PM

Pound and dollar await crucial Thursday

Weak inflation is holding back interest rates rises in the US

Sterling has dipped into the red against the dollar in the last half an hour but today’s movements could be small fry compared to a big day for the two currencies tomorrow.

While sterling has the Bank of England’s Super Thursday to contend with, the US’s own inflation and interest rate hike worries will be the focal point for traders stateside.

Persistently sluggish inflation in the US has dampened hike hopes but a pick-up could reignite expectations that the Federal Reserve will raise rates for a third time in the cycle before the end of the year.

Lukman Otunuga, research analyst at FXTM, said this on tomorrow’s US figures:

“Thursday’s CPI report is a big deal, especially when considering how concerns over stubbornly low inflation rates remain one of the key culprits weighing heavily on US rate hike expectations.

“Price action suggests that dollar bears still remain in control, as investors become increasingly sceptical over the Federal Reserve’s ability to raise interest rates again before the end of the year. A soft inflation figure on Thursday that falls below market estimates is likely to dent the prospect of higher US rates, consequently punishing the vulnerable dollar further.”

2:01PM

Brent crude rallies close to $55 per barrel on upgraded demand forecast

Oil stocks have been boosted by the IEA’s upgraded forecast

Oil demand will pick-up faster than expected this year, the International Energy Agency has forecast today, boosting the price of Brent crude to close to $55 per barrel.

The IEA said that the market is beginning to rebalance as oil demand grows and production among OPEC members begins to fall.

Brent crude jumped 0.8pc to its highest level since late May after the report bumped up its demand growth forecast by 1.6m barrels per day.

Oil stocks have lagged behind crude’s rally in recent months but today the two oil giants on the FTSE 100, BP and Shell, have advanced 0.5pc and 0.6pc, respectively.

1:27PM

UK funds back DNA data miner that can diagnose disease

Sophia Genetics holds a database of 125,000 human genomes

A biotech offering artificial intelligence that can diagnose diseases by mining hundreds of thousands of patients’ DNA data has completed a $30m (£22.6m) fundraising, backed by names including UK venture capital giant Balderton Capital.

Sophia Genetics said it would use the cash to expand its network of hospital tie-ups, which already stands at 330 hospitals in 53 countries, including nine in the UK. The push will be focused on expansion outside Europe.

It will also help fund a move into cancer diagnostics, with the latest therapies from drugmakers increasingly being tailored to suit a patient’s genetic profile.

Swiss-based Sophia Genetics has already analysed the genomic profiles of over 125,000 patients, providing a database that aids doctors in diagnosing a range of conditions from cystic fibrosis and hereditary heart problems.

Read Iain Withers’ full report here

1:02PM

Halfords names Dixons Carphone software boss as new chief executive

Halfords said summer sales had been boosted by a rise in the number of Brits choosing to vacation closer to home

Halfords has appointed the boss of Dixons Carphone’s software business as it new chief executive.

Graham Stapleton has been hired to replace Jill McDonald, who is taking the reigns at Marks & Spencer’s clothing, home and beauty business next month.

Mr Stapleton, who joins the company in January, has previously served as chief executive of Dixons Carphone’s Connect World Services division. Prior to that, he was chief executive of Carphone Warehouse UK & Ireland.

Earlier in his career he held senior positions at Kingfisher and Marks & Spencer.

Read Sam Dean’s full report here

12:48PM

Lunchtime update: Squeeze on households confirmed by stagnant wage growth

The gap between inflation and wage growth has continued to widen

The squeeze on UK households got a little tighter today as the ONS confirmed that wage growth lags far behind rising inflation.

Unemployment dropped to its lowest level in 42 years but the tighter labour market failed to translate to earnings with wage growth stagnating at 2.1pc.

The fall has knocked hawkish hopes of an earlier-than-expected interest rate rise at the Bank of England and the pound has pared its early gains on the currency markets. Sterling remains at a one-year high against the dollar, however, trading at $1.3274.

The FTSE 100’s losses have eased but it is still stuck in the red, bucking the trend on markets. Miners weighed heavily on the blue-chip index as copper slipped to a three-week low while Tesco is the sharpest faller on a broker downgrade.

Spreadex analyst Connor Campbell commented on this morning’s action:

“While sterling’s slide took the edge off the FTSE’s losses it couldn’t fully lift it out of the red. Instead the index is still down 30 or so points, weighed down by its mining stocks. As for the Eurozone, the euro’s bounce against the pound meant there was little for the DAX and CAC to enjoy, instead both indices sitting flat as the morning went on.  

“Looking to this afternoon and for now the Dow Jones seems to have stalled at 22100. The index is set to start the US session flat at that level, with little on the agenda – bar the latest PPI reading – to help it on its way to a fresh all-time high.”

12:26PM

Slow wage growth a global problem

Today’s wage growth figures are proving a bit of a head scratcher for economists. The normal connection between a tight labour market and wage growth just hasn’t been feeding through into the figures recently.

Real wage growth has fallen in almost all sectors with only a handful, including finance and arts, enjoying a rise. 

Looking at the employment figures by region, Northern Ireland lags behind with just 68.2pc of its population in work compared to 79.6pc in the South East.  

Investec economist Philip Shaw points out that slow wage growth is not just a UK problem:

“Both basic economic theory and common sense suggest that pay growth is likely to be bid up as labour becomes scarcer and shortages become more commonplace.

“However, soft wage growth is not just a feature of the UK economy, but an international phenomenon, with the authorities in the US, the euro area and Japan attempting to make sense of similar developments, despite tight, or at least tightening labour markets there.”

Ashurst employment partner Crowley Woodford believes that confidence is key to sluggish wage growth:

“There is still a lack of confidence amongst employers with regards to the longer term future whilst workers still feel insecure in their jobs. This dampens the pressure on employers to offer higher pay and employee representative bodies to demand it.”

11:57AM

Apple’s iPhone X unveiling pulls down European suppliers

The iPhone X will be released in November and cost £999

Unless you’ve been living under the rock or taken a vow against capitalism, you may have noticed that Apple unveiled its new iPhone X yesterday and the markets are of course not immune to the latest release from the world’s largest listed company.

Disappointment that the iPhone X will not hit stores until November dragged down Apple shares 0.4pc last night in the US with the new £999 phone available to buy on November 3, a considerable delay compared to previous releases.

Given that Apple left its fourth quarter guidance in tact, it suggests that the tech giant expects to compensate for the delay with sales of its new iPhone 8, which will be released later this month.

Apple’s share price knock has had a read across to its suppliers with British semiconductor firm IQE falling nearly 6pc while in Europe suppliers AMS and Dialog have both retreated. Imagination Tech shares, which have plummeted since Apple announced that it would soon stop using the company’s chips, have fallen 4.5pc.

11:28AM

Markets update: easyJet jumps on new long-haul booking service

EasyJet has moved into long-haul through its ‘Worldwide by easyJet’ service

All that wage growth excitement has led me to neglect the big movers in London this morning so let’s take a quick look at the laggards and leaders.

On the FTSE 100, easyJet has been propelled to the top of the leaderboard after making the move into long-haul through a new service that allows passengers to book connecting flights on partner airlines.

At the other end, Tesco has dropped 1.9pc on a broker downgrade from Exane BNP Paribas while mining stocks are struggling as the price of copper falls to a three-week low.

On the mid-cap FTSE 250, homeware store Dunelm has popped over 7pc after it told shareholders of a strong start to its financial year while wholesale retailer Booker has retreated 2.5pc following a broker downgrade.

10:58AM

Dunelm sales drop as it warns of difficult trading climate in the UK

Dunelm like-for-like sales were down last year

Homewares retailer Dunelm has warned that it expects trading conditions to remain difficult in the UK as it reported a drop in like-for-like sales.

In its full-year results, Dunelm said like-for-like sales in its stores were down 2.4pc in the year to the start of July.

Overall like-for-like sales were down 0.5pc, and pre-tax profits fell to £92.4m from £128.9m in the previous year.

The decrease came despite an 8.5pc jump in total revenues, from £881m to £956m.  

The FTSE 250 company said the sales drop in its stores was the result of lower footfall as a result of “unusually warm weather”.

Shares jumped 40p to 650.5p, a 6.6pc increase, following the update.

Read Sam Dean’s full report here

10:48AM

Job figures reaction: link between wages and unemployment weakening

Minister for Employment Damian Hinds said today’s figures show employers investing Britain

The link between wages and unemployment is weakening, according to Deloitte’s chief economist Ian Stewart.

He said:

“Job creation is a huge UK success story. Despite Brexit uncertainties and slower growth, the UK continues to generate ever lower unemployment and ever more jobs.   “

“But the recession, and its aftermath, has weakened the link between unemployment and wages. In the past this degree of tightness in the jobs market would be pushing wages higher. Instead earnings growth has flat lined in the last couple of years.”

Here’s the reaction of the Minister for Employment Damian Hinds to today’s job figures:

“The strength of the economy is helping people of all ages find work, from someone starting their first job after leaving education, to those who might be starting a new career later in life.

“Britain’s employment success is largely about a growth in full-time and permanent work, as employers invest in Britain and offer quality job opportunities that put more money into people’s pockets.

“But there is more to do, and we will continue to build on our achievements through our employment programmes and the work of Jobcentre Plus.”

Unfortunately that extra money in people pockets is being pinched by high inflation.

10:34AM

Job figures reaction: high inflation and weak wage growth muddies BoE decision

The Bank of England is stuck between a rock and a hard place ahead of tomorrow’s monetary policy meeting after wage growth failed to keep up with inflation.

While high inflation boosts hopes that the central bank will soon take a hawkish turn, today’s poor wage growth figures in a tight labour market has added another layer of uncertainty. 

Ranko Berich, head of market analysis at Monex Europe, believes today’s figures have put the central bank in an uneviable position:

“Looking at the across the board inflation increase reported in August and low unemployment rate, you’d be forgiven for thinking that the BoE’s policy decision will be a no brainer in favour of higher rates at some stage in the next 12 months. But today’s miss on average earnings highlights the fact that this is just not the case: wage growth remains sluggish, and real wages are in deep contraction in the UK.

“The BoE is in an unenviable position heading into tomorrow’s MPC meeting, given that inflation is above target but the latest wage and investment data show that the economy is hardly going through a demand driven boom that needs an immediate monetary response.”

Wage growth failing to keep pace with inflation has muddied the decision at the Bank of England, according to ETX Capital analyst Neil Wilson.

He explained:

 “At the same time inflation is exchange rate rather than demand driven and therefore expected to retreat soon enough. Hopes of a hike by year-end may well be dashed on the rocks of economic uncertainty.

“In the short-term, cable may find it hard to hold onto gains if there is no additional indications from the Bank that it is prepared to hike this year. Today’s wage growth data would appear to temper any hawkish inclination, proving bearish for sterling in the near-term.”

10:06AM

Wage growth reaction: today’s disappointing figures pull down early interest rate hike hopes

Wage growth has weakened this year despite the decline in job market slack, according to Pantheon Macro

Has today’s disappointing wage growth wounded hopes of an early interest rate hike?

The chance of an early rate rise have been dealt a blow this morning, according to Jake Trask, FX Research Director at OFX.

He said:

“Before this morning’s data, there had been some speculation that the Bank of England’s Chief Economist would switch tack tomorrow, and address above-target inflation by voting for a rate hike.

“But this morning’s sluggish reading will likely see him sit on his hands a while longer, to avoid adding pressure to consumers already facing rising prices.”

Pantheon Macro UK economist Samuel Tombs agrees that today’s job figures weaken the argument of monetary policy hawks.

He explained:

“The latest labour market data are, on balance, a setback for the hawks on the MPC arguing for higher interest rates. Admittedly, employment rose by 181K, or 0.6%, in the three months to July, the fastest growth since the end of 2015.

“But the three-month average number of job vacancies in August was 0.9% lower than in the previous three months, pointing to a slowdown in employment growth ahead.”

9:57AM

Gap between wages and inflation widens

Today’s wage growth figures will reignite concerns that the tightening labour market is still failing to feed through to wage growth.

Wage growth was expected to nudge up to 2.2pc but the figures remained steady at 2.1pc.

The figures mean that the gap between wages and inflation, which rose to 2.9pc yesterday, has widened even further to tighten the squeeze on UK households.

London Capital Group analyst Ipek Ozkardeskaya believes the pound’s retreat following today’s data could be short-lived, however.

She added:

“The widening price-wage inflation gap is becoming a serious headache for the Bank of England (BoE) policymakers as lower wages require a dovish monetary policy, but only as long as the inflation allows. 

“Despite the slow improvement in wages and street protests from several sector workers, the rising inflationary pressures could encourage some Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) members to vote in favour of an interest rate hike in the coming months.”

9:44AM

Job figures key takeaways

Wage growth now lags far behind inflation

  1. Wage growth remains steady at 2.1pc, lower than expectations. The disappointing figures widen the gap between pay and rising prices.
  2. Unemployment nudges down to 4.3pc, its lowest rate since 1975.
  3. 32.14m people were in work in the three months to July, 181,000 more than the period between February to April.
  4. Pound retreats back to flat territory on the currency markets following sluggish wage growth data.
9:33AM

Wage growth disappoints; unemployment nudges down to 4.3pc

Wage growth disappoints, remaining steady at 2.1pc to widen the gap between rising prices and pay.

Unemployment nudges down to 4.3pc, a 0.1 percentage point drop.

Pound slips back towards flat territory against dollar, trading 0.1pc higher at $1.3280.

9:20AM

Pound eases off morning highs; still firmly in positive territory against most major currencies

The pound has jumped 0.3pc higher against the dollar this morning

The pound’s ascent on the currency markets has eased off a little as we approach the job figures at the bottom of the hour with sterling flirting with flat territory against the euro.

The FTSE 100 is continuing to suffer at the expense of the stronger pound, according to Spreadex analyst Connor Campbell.

He said:

“With the UK jobs report on the way the FTSE continued to suffer in the shadow of sterling’s September rise.   The FTSE plunged more than 50 points after the bell, swiftly falling to a 7350-grazing near one week low. The miners have all moved lower, while BP and Shell are both down half a percent.

“However, the main reason for the UK index’s decline was the pound’s latest climb. Though only up 0.2%, that takes cable to a fresh, $1.33-plus one year peak; it has also risen 0.1% against the euro, cementing a 6 week high.”

9:05AM

Job figures preview: what the experts say

Let’s have a quick round-up of what the experts are saying ahead of today’s job figures.

CMC Markets analyst Michael Hewson believes strong figures today will lift interest rate hike hopes.

He said:

“A solid wages number could shift the calculus on the MPC further towards a rate rise with Chief economist Andrew Haldane likely to join the other two hawks Michael Saunders and Ian McCafferty in pushing for a rate rise, given recent comments he made during the summer, when inflation ticked up to the same level it is now.

“He suggested that “beginning the process of withdrawing some of the incremental stimulus provided last August would be prudent moving into the second part of the year”, though the caveat was that the data supported such a move.”  

He added that it would have been a “delicious irony” if inflation had pushed past 3pc and Bank of England governor Mark Carney had been forced to write a letter to chancellor Philip Hammond to explain why the figures had so badly missed the central bank’s 2pc target.

Many blame Mr Carney and co’s emergency monetary policy change after the EU referendum for knocking down the value of the pound and pushing up inflation.

Disappointing wage figures will only complicate matters at the central bank, according to Accendo Markets head of research Mike Van Dulken.

He commented:

“Following yesterday’s much hotter than expected inflation prints, the Bank of England will be hoping for a reciprocal surprise from wages too.

“A disappointment, however, will add yet another level of complexity to their current interest rate quandary, with policymakers hesitant to increase rates which consumers  are subject to an extended pinch on their pockets.”

8:48AM

Job figures preview: what to expect

Unemployment is expected to remain at a 42-year low

Yesterday’s jump in inflation reignited hawkish hopes of an interest rate hike before the end of the year, sending the pound soaring on currency markets.

There are concerns at the dovish end of the Bank of England’s Monetary Policy Committee, however, that the UK economy is too fragile to withstand a rate rise. Could today’s figures be enough to persuade wavering MPC members, such as chief economist Andy Haldane, to back a hike?

What to expect

Wage growth is expected to nudge up to 2.2pc in the three months to July, a 0.1 percentage point rise on last month’s figures and lagging far behind inflation.

Meanwhile, unemployment will remain unchanged at 4.4pc, a 42-year low, according to economists.

8:27AM

Agenda: Pound pushes past $1.33 against dollar ahead of wage growth data

Housebuilder Galliford Try posted profits at the upper end of estimates

Lagging wage growth is the focal point for the markets this morning with the ONS’ figures expected to show the gap between pay and rising prices continuing to widen.

Average earnings growth will nudge up to 2.2pc, according to the consensus of economists, cranking up the pressure on households and marking another knock-back for real wages.

The pound this morning has built on yesterday’s post-inflation data gains against the dollar, rising 0.4pc at $1.3326, a one-year high. 

The FTSE 100 under pressure from the buoyant pound missed out on the relief rally pulling up equities globally yesterday. This morning it has lurched into the red while European stocks’ rally has stuttered with the CAC 40 in flat territory and the DAX nudging down.

Galliford Try’s full-year results are the highlight on a slightly lighter corporate calendar. The housebuilder, which was hit by a £98m provision to cover legacy contract costs earlier this year, posted profits at the upper end of estimates, pushing its shares 1.3pc higher earlier on.

Interim results: Alliance Pharma, Ten Entertainment Group, Just Group, Soco International, Gaming Realms, Ingenta, Epwin Group, SQS Software Quality Systems AG, Advanced Medical Solutions Group, Columbus Energy Resources, MyCelx Technologies Corporation

Full-year results: Wilmington, Dunelm Group, Town Centre Securities, Galliford Try, Haynes Publishing Group

AGM: Marechale Capital, Versarien, Tricorn Group, Argo Group, Games Workshop Group, Intercede Group, Hardy Oil & Gas

Economics: Unemployment Rate (UK), Claimant Count Change (UK), Average Earnings Index 3m/y (UK), PPI m/m (US), Industrial Production m/m (EU)Employment Change q/q (EU)