FirstFT: Chinese energy crisis bites in threat to growth

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Chinese imports of coal and natural gas increased sharply in September as Beijing raced to deal with a spiralling energy crisis that threatens economic growth.

China imported 32.9m tonnes of coal in September, 76 per cent more than it did during the same month last year, customs data released yesterday showed. Natural gas imports rose 23 per cent to 10.6m tonnes compared with the previous year.

Factories and businesses have been forced to ration power use and some households have experienced electricity outages after a power crunch hit more than 20 Chinese provinces last month.

Meanwhile, the effects of the energy crisis continues to ripple around the world. Americans’ home heating bills will rise sharply this winter, according to a federal government forecast, as a global energy crunch begins to reach the world’s biggest economy at a time of building concerns over inflation. And in the UK, two more UK energy suppliers have gone under owing to record wholesale gas prices.

Have you experienced power outages due to the energy crisis? Share your experience with me at [email protected]. Thanks for reading FirstFT. Here is the rest of today’s news — Emily

Five more stories in the news

1. Hong Kong trading suspended owing to typhoon Hong Kong Stock Exchange cancelled its entire trading session yesterday after high winds and rain from Typhoon Kompasu persisted into the afternoon. The storm left one dead and 21 injured. (FT, AP)

2. US inflation heats up The pace of US consumer price growth pushed higher in September, hovering at a 13-year high as inflationary pressures drove up costs. The consumer price index published by the Bureau of Labor Statistics rose 5.4 per cent in September from a year ago, slightly higher than the annual increase reported for August.

3. EU proposes ‘far-reaching’ offer in Brexit dispute The EU is proposing to sweep away most checks on goods crossing from Great Britain to Northern Ireland in a bid to ensure smoother trade within the UK and end a protracted post-Brexit dispute with London.

4. Georgieva insists there is ‘no doubt’ about IMF’s credibility IMF managing director Kristalina Georgieva insisted that the fund remains a credible institution following recent allegations of manipulated data while she formerly headed the World Bank, and vowed that she had the right skills to lead the fund and shore up staff morale following the controversy.

5. US overtakes China as biggest bitcoin mining hub The US overtook China as the world’s biggest source of bitcoin mining two months after Beijing banned crypto mining this year. China’s share of the global hashrate — the computational power required to create bitcoin — fell from 44 per cent to zero between May and July, Cambridge Centre for Alternative Finance figures show.

Video: Why every Dogecoin has its day – crypto explained

Coronavirus digest

  • The Federal Reserve is poised to begin phasing out its pandemic-era stimulus programme as early as next month and wrap up the process by mid-2022.

  • Medicago, a unit of Mitsubishi Tanabe Pharmal, is planning to launch the world’s first plant-based Covid-19 vaccine.

  • Some of America’s favourite snacks, from Kellogg’s Frosted Flakes to Nabisco’s Oreo cookies, have been caught up in a drive by factory workers to secure better working conditions after being pushed to the brink during the pandemic.

  • The success of mRNA vaccines in the fight against coronavirus is opening the way to a new generation of drugs, including personalised cancer treatments.

The day ahead

China monthly consumer price index and inflation figures Figures will be released today after the IMF warned the world earlier this week of the need to be need to be “very, very vigilant” over rising inflation risks.

US bank earnings Citigroup, Bank of America, Morgan Stanley and Wells Fargo report third quarter results today. JPMorgan Chase kicked off Wall Street bank earnings yesterday with a big jump in profits driven by a dealmaking boom, but warned that expenses would continue to rise and that demand for new loans remained sluggish.

As businesses get used to a new labour market, a rapidly evolving post-Brexit regulatory landscape and new customs and border controls that will be introduced in 2022, the new-look “Britain after Brexit” briefing will be with you every step of the way, engaging with the gristle and sinew of this fast-changing world. Sign up here.

What else we’re reading

Xi gambles on economic tumult to cement his legacy China’s president Xi Jinping could be heading into a storm of his own making as he presses ahead with tough reforms to rein in property prices and reduce income inequality that could do more economic harm than good.

The Indian TV pioneer at the centre of his own drama The story surrounding Subhash Chandra, a member of the upper house of parliament, is playing out like an Indian adaptation of HBO’s Succession, as he battles to keep his son Punit Goenka at the helm of Zee — now India’s largest listed media company — in the face of a shareholder revolt.

China is the next big prize for quant funds Quant fund interest in China has exploded this year, according to fund managers and prime brokers in the region. Better tools for hedging, easier access and heavy trading by Chinese retail investors, who create copious opportunities for quant strategies to generate returns, all lure the quant funds in.

Line chart of Cumulative approvals for Qualified Foreign Institutional Investor programme showing Foreign funds line up for onshore access to China

Afghanistan’s hunters become hunted The abrupt changing of the guard in Afghanistan has blown away hierarchies and conventions in every area of life, with the previously powerful on the run and ordinary people having to adapt to new strictures even though they bridle against them.

How to survive and thrive on an executive MBA For executive MBA participants, the flexibility to study part-time alongside a full-time job is a large part of the degree’s appeal. But balancing a return to school with a career is a daunting prospect for many. Educators and students offer some tips on coping with the pressure.


The International Center of Photography on Manhattan’s Lower East Side has mounted a pair of retrospectives by Gillian Laub and Diana Markosian which turn their autobiographies into museum-quality fotonovelas.

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