EconomyFirstFT: Refiners in China are still buying Russian oil

FirstFT: Refiners in China are still buying Russian oil

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China’s independent refiners have been discreetly buying Russian oil at steep discounts as western countries suspend their own purchases and explore potential embargoes because of the war in Ukraine.

An official at a Shandong-based independent refinery said it had not publicly reported deals with Russian oil suppliers since the Ukraine war started in order to avoid attracting scrutiny and being hit by US sanctions. The official added that the refinery had taken over some of the purchase quota for Russian crude from state-owned commodity trading firms, which are seen to represent Beijing and have mostly declined to sign new supply contracts.

Many western companies are self-sanctioning or struggling to secure the insurance, shipping or financing needed to buy Russia’s commodity exports, raising expectations that energy-hungry China will step in and buy the unsold barrels.

The purchases from China’s independent refineries reveal how some importers are bypassing traditional routes to access cheap Russian oil, helping Beijing maintain a low profile as the west barrages Moscow with sanctions.

Do you have feedback on today’s newsletter? Share them with me at Thanks for reading FirstFT Asia — Emily

1. Biden calls on US Supreme Court to uphold Roe vs Wade After the leak of a draft opinion that would overturn Roe vs Wade, US president Joe Biden urged justices to uphold the landmark abortion rights ruling. The Supreme Court confirmed the draft’s authenticity, but said it did not represent its “final position”. The court’s chief justice condemned the leak as a “betrayal”.

Do you think people should have the right to an abortion? Tell us what you think in our poll.

2. Report on ‘Ma’ detention sparks Alibaba sell-off Alibaba shares fell as much as 9.4 per cent yesterday following a Chinese state media report that an individual surnamed “Ma” had been detained. Shares finished the day almost 2 per cent lower after state broadcaster CCTV said the individual was not Alibaba founder Jack Ma.

3. Hong Kong loosens Covid rules Hong Kong announced an unexpected loosening of coronavirus social distancing restrictions yesterday as the Asian financial centre published data showing its first economic contraction since the start of the pandemic.

4. Tiger Global slumps more than 40% in early 2022 Tiger Global’s flagship hedge fund was dealt a fresh blow in April and is now down more than 40 per cent this year, in the latest sign of how star investors who rode the big rally in tech stocks have been wrongfooted by a sharp pullback.

5. Australia kicks off rate rise cycle Government bond markets were volatile on Tuesday after Australia kicked off a busy week for central banks with a bigger than expected rate rise and traders debated the economic consequences of the US Federal Reserve increasing borrowing costs.

The day ahead

Life Insurance Corporation of India IPO The initial public offering opens to the general public today. Last week the Indian government more than halved the amount it is seeking to raise from the IPO of the state-owned company to less than $3bn after testing investor appetite in jittery markets.

US interest rate decision The Federal Reserve will conclude its two-day policy meeting that is expected to result in its first half percentage point rise in interest rates since 2000 and signal more aggressive action to bring decades-high inflation under control.

  • Opinion: The era in which American monetary policy could rely on the “Goldilocks” scenario is receding, writes Edward Luce. The Fed has officially lost the plot.

What else we’re reading

The top challenge facing Singapore’s next leader Finance minister Lawrence Wong was confirmed last month as the successor to Lee Hsien Loong. But Wong, who would be only the fourth prime minister in the quasi-authoritarian state’s 56-year history, faces a more difficult task than any of his predecessors in maintaining friendly relations with China and the west.

Would a Sinn Féin win open door to a united Ireland? Almost a quarter of a century after the 1998 Good Friday Agreement ended the Troubles — three decades of violence in Northern Ireland in which more than 3,500 people died — polls predict that Sinn Féin, the political wing of the paramilitary IRA, will after Thursday’s election become the biggest party in Northern Ireland for the first time.

Ukraine war casts shadow over Transnistria With Kyiv and Moscow trading accusations over responsibility for recent explosions in Transnistria, concerns are rising that the Russia-backed breakaway republic might be dragged into the war in neighbouring Ukraine.

Horn of Africa ravaged by drought From northern Kenya to Somalia and swaths of Ethiopia, up to 20mn people could go hungry this year as delayed rains exacerbate what was already the worst drought in four decades. One more dry season could turn what is already a disaster into the worst drought in a century, locals say.

How do we buy our first property? On the Money Clinic podcast, FT’s Claer Barrett meets a couple who are midway through their property buying journey. They have lots of questions: Did they get the right kind of mortgage? And what other financial questions should they consider before signing on the dotted line? Listen here to find out.


Monday marked the return of America’s biggest, glitziest night of fashion: the Met Gala. The official red-carpet theme was “Gilded Glamour”, a reference to the Gilded Age in late 19th-century America. A-listers turned out in over-the-top tributes to Gilded Age fashion — with some clever modern tweaks. Take a look at the best red carpet looks here.

Actor Blake Lively on the Met red carpet on Monday night in Versace gown and Statue of Liberty-style tiara © FilmMagic

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