FirstFT: China’s coal futures hit record high

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Chinese coal futures rose to record levels as floods shut dozens of mines and displaced more than 100,000 people, throttling the country’s main source of the fuel for electricity and compounding a global energy crisis.

Coal futures traded on the Zhengzhou Commodity Exchange climbed 11.6 per cent to close at an all-time high of Rmb1,408.20 ($218.74) a tonne yesterday. The CSI Coal index of big miners listed in Shanghai and Shenzhen rose 3.7 per cent, partly reversing losses from last week, when official orders to boost coal production sent prices tumbling.

Flooding in the central province of Shanxi over the weekend piled further pressure on Beijing to contain a growing energy crisis that threatens to undermine the recovery of the world’s second-largest economy. China’s problems come as price volatility in global energy markets has sent countries scrambling to procure power supplies at ever-higher costs.

Indeed, the price of US crude oil hit a fresh seven-year high yesterday on fears that fuel demand was recovering faster from last year’s economic slowdown than producers could bring supply to the market. Subscribe to our Energy Source newsletter for the latest on the global energy crisis.

Have you been hit by China’s energy crunch? Share your experience with me at emily.goldberg@ft.com. Thanks for reading FirstFT Asia. Here’s the rest of today’s news — Emily

Five more stories in the news

1. Henry Kravis and George Roberts step down as KKR chiefs Longtime co-presidents, Scott Nuttall and Joe Bae, will take the helm of the firm, KKR said yesterday. Kravis and Roberts, whose leveraged buyouts of the 1980s made them the face of the private equity industry, will remain executive chairs of the board of directors and maintain relationships with investors and offer counsel on the firm’s strategy.

  • Go deeper: Kravis and Roberts are handing over a transformed KKR. The

    buyout firm has become diversified institution — almost like conglomerates the barbarians once broke up.

2. Southwest flight delays drag on into a fourth day Southwest Airlines has blamed air traffic control and weather as widespread flight cancellations and delays stretched into a fourth day, while its pilots union said the disruptions signalled how the airline’s overtaxed operations were buckling under stress.

3. Kim calls for improved living standards in North Korea Addressing a gathering yesterday to mark the 76th anniversary of the founding of the ruling Workers’ Party of Korea, Kim Jong Un demanded that officials boost North Korea’s living standards as his regime struggles to come to grips with a self-acknowledged “food crisis”.

4. US winners of Nobel Prize for economics David Card, Joshua Angrist and Guido Imbens won the 2021 Nobel Prize for economics for their work on real-world experiments that challenged received ideas, including by showing that raising minimum wages need not hurt jobs and that immigration does not always cut pay for native-born workers.

5. Indonesia’s novice investors burnt by IPO reversals New retail investors crowding into the Indonesian stock market have had baptisms of fire after a number of hot initial public offerings, including the ecommerce group Bukalapak, crashed below their early trading prices.

Coronavirus digest

  • Thailand is set to relax travel rules for vaccinated tourists ahead of year-end holiday season.

  • US Covid cases have dropped by 22 per cent in the past two weeks, raising hopes that the worst of the recent surge may be over.

  • Merck has asked US regulators to authorise the first antiviral pill to treat Covid-19 in a move health experts hope could help ease the pandemic.

  • AstraZeneca’s Covid-19 antibody cocktail cuts the risk of severe disease or death in patients by half, the company said yesterday.

  • Many countries’ Covid responses are being hampered by population data glitches. Imperfect figures mean nations do not know how many residents have been vaccinated.

The day ahead

IMF World Economic Outlook published IMF chief Kristalina Georgieva is expected to speak at the report’s publication as her fate at the top of the organisation is debated.

Economic data We’ll be watching for figures released today including UK labour market data, India’s monthly consumer price index and Japan’s monthly producer price index.

What else we’re reading and watching

The buyout firm taking on Sanjeev Gupta A group of executives from American Industrial Partners, a little-known private equity firm with a nose for value, says it has taken control of the industrialist’s top European asset. For AIP the move would be a coup. For Gupta, it would rob his empire of a vital source of income.

The moment of truth over Taiwan is getting closer Would America go to war over Taiwan? That question has seemed fairly abstract for decades. Now it is increasingly urgent, writes Gideon Rachman, as the US and China remain engaged in a dangerous game of military poker over the future of the island.

What is driving Europe’s energy crisis? If you live in continental Europe or the UK the natural gas that heats your home is costing at least five times more than it did a year ago. While some in the gas industry believe the price surge is temporary, others say it highlights a structural weakness in a continent that has become too reliant on imported gas.

Black women paid less as careers stagnate, says survey Almost three-quarters of black women working in big tech, finance and professional services in the UK said they believed they were being paid less than their peers, in a London School of Economics and Political Science survey.

A global AI bill of rights is desperately needed The Bill of Artificial Intelligence Rights proposed by the White House science advisers could ensure a person’s right to know if and how AI is making decisions about them, writes Anjana Ahuja. It could enshrine freedom from algorithms that replicate biases and the right to challenge unfair AI decisions.

Reader response

“Are you becoming an Old Bore?” veteran writer Simon Kuper asked last week in his column about retirement for the Financial Times magazine. While there is certainly nothing wrong with being an “old bore” according to one reader, many others felt compelled to give their advice on how to avoid turning into one.

“There is one great advantage of ageing and retirement: you no longer have to care what other people say or even think . . . priceless.” — JHK

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