October 22, 2021

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FirstFT: White House calls on Opec to boost production to contain fuel prices

Opec updates

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The White House has called on Opec to boost oil production in an effort to curb high petrol prices that Biden administration officials say “risk harming the ongoing global recovery”.

Jake Sullivan, Joe Biden’s national security adviser, said in a statement yesterday that while Opec and its allies had “recently agreed to production increases”, the boost would “not fully offset previous production cuts that Opec+ imposed during the pandemic until well into 2022.”

US petrol prices have risen alongside soaring motor fuel demand as the American economy has reopened following coronavirus-related lockdowns. Petrol is selling for an average of $3.19 a gallon across the country, up almost 50 per cent from the same time last year, according to the AAA, an automobile association. The highest recorded national average price was more than $4.10 a gallon, in 2008.

The White House’s intervention marks an abrupt shift from Donald Trump’s policy during last year’s oil market crash, when he pressed Opec to raise prices in a bid to help US shale companies weather one of the worst market downturns in decades.

Five more stories in the news

1. Pace of US inflation steadies The rapid pace of US consumer price increases steadied at a 13-year high in July, with a 5.4 per cent rise from a year ago, as inflationary pressures persisted because of supply-chain constraints and soaring demand.

Opinion: there are signs we will soon have to worry about rising prices despite reassuring central bank forecasts, writes Chris Giles.

2. Taliban seizes three more provincial capitals The Taliban has taken control of three more provincial capitals in Afghanistan as Joe Biden reaffirmed his decision to pull US troops out of the country even as the militant group makes sweeping territorial gains.

Afghanistan Taliban status map

3. Germany arrests Briton on suspicion of spying for Russia A British man working at the UK embassy in Berlin has been arrested on suspicion of passing information to the Russian intelligence services in return for cash. The suspect had been tracked for months before his arrest.

4. Electric vehicle sales surge in China Electric cars took up 10 per cent of total auto sales in China from January to July. Chinese drivers flocked to local auto brands while US group Tesla has been hit by scandals over quality problems and data privacy concerns in the country.

5. Private school owners in China forced to hand over institutions Rising numbers of private school owners have been forced to give their institutions to the Chinese state as the fallout from Beijing’s abrupt education overhaul ripples across the country. “The top leaders do not believe private schools serve the greater good,” said a Beijing-based government adviser.

Coronavirus digest

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends pregnant women get vaccinated against Covid-19, saying data indicated that Moderna and Pfizer shots did not increase the risk of a miscarriage.

The World Health Organization is to test three new drugs in hospital admitted Covid-19 patients, as part of a global drive for coronavirus treatments among pre-existing medicines.

Singapore has upgraded its GDP forecast for 2021 as Covid-19 cases stabilise. The city-state aims to begin easing border controls in the next few weeks.

Hong Kong’s flagship airline Cathay Pacific warns it faces ‘the most challenging period’ in its history and was unable to forecast an end to its financial strain as the Delta variant continues to spread.

The pandemic has brought the biggest disruption to ports since the start of container shipping 65 years ago. More than 300 container ships are currently stuck outside ports around the world.

Chart showing container shipping disruption, by number of ships waiting for a berth at port globally

Sign up for our Coronavirus Business Update newsletter and follow our live blog for the latest.

The day ahead

UK GDP data Following a contraction at the start of the year, investors will find out how quickly the UK bounced back as lockdown restrictions were eased, with the release of the first quarterly estimate of GDP for the second quarter of the year.

US opioid epidemic Purdue bankruptcy trial over the settlement of opioid-related litigation will take place in New York. Members of the Sackler family who own Purdue Pharma will pay $4.5bn under a plan to settle the bankruptcy of the company in exchange for a shield against future financial liability.

Earnings Toshiba, Walt Disney, Foxconn, Deutsche Telekom, Airbnb and Hapag-Lloyd are among the companies reporting earnings. Read the full list here.

What else we’re reading

How to reach the unvaccinated Carrot or stick? As the Delta variant spreads around the world, governments are facing the delicate issue of how to convince hesitant citizens to take the jab. Their solutions often involve a combination of incentives and coercion. Should governments enforce the use of vaccine passports? Vote in our latest poll.

Japan’s prime minister fails to win Olympics bounce Yoshihide Suga had a plan for the summer: stage the Tokyo Olympics despite the Covid-19 pandemic, fire up the public and ride a wave of medal success to victory in a general election. But there has been no sign of an Olympic bounce, thrusting Japan into political turmoil and uncertainty.

Cryptocurrency exchanges target sport sponsorships Companies behind the nascent industry are increasingly turning to sports sponsorship to turbocharge their decade-long journey from the depths of the internet to mainstream speculative asset. Major League Baseball has signed a long-term multimillion-dollar deal with FTX, an exchange that was valued at $18bn last month, up from $1.2bn last year.

Investors should beware Beijing’s unpredictability The structure of Chinese IPOs can lull the unwary into thinking that investing in the country is no different than putting money in developed markets. That is a terrible mistake, writes Brooke Masters. Shareholders are buying into an arbitrary system where the rules can and do change overnight.

Brooke Masters: ‘Many of the uncertainties were apparent even when Alibaba listed, but enthusiastic investors opted to discount them’Brooke Masters: ‘Many of the uncertainties were apparent even when Alibaba listed, but enthusiastic investors opted to discount them’ © Ellie Foreman-Peck

China cracks down on post-work drinking China is moving to suppress a culture of heavy post-work drinking and ‘harmful karaoke’ as Beijing struggles to respond to rising outrage over allegations of sexual assault against women. The crackdown on behaviour deemed inappropriate is the latest in a series of regulatory actions that have ensnared the country’s businesses and stung global investors.

Travel

Keeping well in Hong Kong From running along the Tsim Sha Tsui waterfront to escaping to the quiet hills of Mid-Levels, here are the top tips FT readers shared about how to keep fit in Hong Kong.

“I walk or run up to Victoria Peak each morning at 4am or 5am along with a few, mostly very senior, locals. The pollution doesn’t affect me at that hour and it’s dark, so I can wear leftover undershirts to keep my packing light. It’s an amazing view at the top and a very invigorating way to start the day.” — Karl Scheer

© Robert Harding/Alamy
© Robert Harding/Alamy

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