Coal crisis escalates as rain shuts down mines

Heavy rain had forced the northern province of Shanxi to shut 27 coal mines by Monday, the provincial government said yesterday.

To maintain price stability, the China Banking and Insurance Regulatory Commission said it will combat the misuse of bank and insurance funds for speculation on commodities such as coal, steel and metals.

This came as China started unloading a small number of Australian coal shipments amid power shortages, despite an unofficial import ban in recent years, according to the Financial Times.

Zhejiang province has also brought in its first shipment of thermal coal from Kazakhstan, state media reported.

China Railway meanwhile said it will make efforts to ensure the power plants have at least seven days of coal stocks.

In other news, Brent crude oil futures were near three-year highs yesterday, with US benchmark crude close to 2014 peaks, after Opec+ decided to stick to a plan to gradually increase output rather than fully opening the taps.

Shares of oil and gas providers jumped in Hong Kong. PetroChina (0857) surged 7.6 percent and became the top performer among blue chips. CNOOC (0883) gained 2.5 percent and Sinopec (0386) 2.4 percent.

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