China’s factory downturn slows as Covid curbs ease; Brent crude oil hits $124 – business live

GSK’s logo.
Photograph: Dado Ruvić/Reuters

Deal news: UK pharmaceuticals group GSK is taking over biopharmaceutical firm Affinivax in a $3.3bn deal.

Affinivax is pioneering the development of a novel class of vaccines, GSK says, the most advanced of which are next-generation pneumococcal vaccines for infections such as pneumonia, meningitis and sinusitis.

Dr Hal Barron, Chief Scientific Officer and President R&D, GSK, said:

“The proposed acquisition further strengthens our vaccines R&D pipeline, provides access to a new, potentially disruptive technology, and broadens GSK’s existing scientific footprint in the Boston area.”

The deal comes as GSK prepares to spin off its consumer healthcare unit, and become an R&D-focused biopharma company.

Oil’s jump to a two-month high will not be welcome news for policymakers already grappling with higher energy prices, says Jim Reid of Deutsche Bank.

Part of that increase has come amidst the easing of Covid restrictions in China, but the prospect of an EU embargo on Russian oil has also played a role.

Brent crude hits two-month high of $124 after EU’s Russia import ban

The oil price has jumped after European leaders agreed a partial ban on Russian oil imports.

After lengthy talks in Brussels, the EU agreed to an embargo on most Russian oil imports, to cut the finances flowing to Moscow.

But it won’t stop the flow completely. The embargo covers Russian oil brought in by sea. but there’s a temporary exception for pipeline imports, to appease countries such as Hungary who opposed a full ban.

The president of the European Council, Charles Michel, says it will immediately impact 75% of Russian oil imports.

Tonight #EUCO agreed a sixth package of sanctions.

It will allow a ban on oil imports from #Russia.

The sanctions will immediately impact 75% of Russian oil imports. And by the end of the year, 90% of the Russian oil imported in Europe will be banned.

— Charles Michel (@eucopresident) May 30, 2022

Our Brussels correspondent Jennifer Rankin reports:

Volodymyr Zelenskiy had earlier appealed to EU leaders to show unity against Vladimir Putin. At a summit in Brussels, EU leaders had been attempting to find a way to placate the Hungarian prime minister, Viktor Orbán, who has been holding up a deal on the latest sanctions against Putin’s war machine.

Under a compromise plan that was discussed at the summit, Russian oil transported through the Soviet-era Druzhba pipeline for Hungary, the Czech Republic and Slovakia would be exempt from the EU embargo.

In a press conference on Monday night, Michel acknowledged talk of a lack of European unity, adding: “I think that more than ever it is important to show that we are able to be strong, that we are able to be firm, that we are able to be tough in order to defend our values and our interests.”

Partial embargo: Countries that import oil on tankers had initial reservations about an exemption for pipeline oil that would give an advantage to those countries that can continue to import cheaper Russian oil

— Kostas Ant Lavdas (@KostasAntLavdas) May 31, 2022

This, and the encouraging signs from China’s economy, has pushed Brent to its highest since early March.

The Brent crude oil price this year
The Brent crude oil price this year Photograph: Refinitiv

Introduction: China’s private sector decline slows as Covid curbs ease

Residents in Shanghai line up for nucleic acid tests on a street as the city prepares to end the lockdown placed to curb the coronavirus disease.
Residents in Shanghai line up for nucleic acid tests on a street as the city prepares to end the lockdown placed to curb the coronavirus disease. Photograph: Aly Song/Reuters

Good morning, and welcome to our rolling coverage of business, the world economy and the financial markets.

The slump in China’s economy caused by Covid-19 lockdowns may be bottoming out, as authorities prepare to end the restrictions imposed in Shanghai two months ago.

Activity across China’s companies shrank at a slower rate this month — after falling sharply as virus outbreaks led to restrictions in several cities earlier this year– according to the latest survey of purchasing managers across China’s businesses.

China’s factory sector only dipped last month, with its PMI rising to 49.6, from 47.4 in April. That lifted it back towards the 50-point mark showing stagnation.

The services sector struggled more, with the ‘non-manufacturing PMI’ jumping to 47.8 after plunging to 41.9 a month ago. That shows the sector continued to contract, but not as fast.

Zhao Qinghe, senior statistician at China’s National Bureau of Statistics, says:

“This showed manufacturing production and demand have recovered to varying degrees, but the recovery momentum needs to be strengthened.

The data has lifted hopes for a recovery next month, as Jeffrey Halley of OANDA explains:

Both numbers remain below 50.0 and are thus in contractionary territory. But are markedly less so thanks to an easing of restrictions in Beijing and Shanghai.

A less worse than expected set of data has prompted a modest rally in China equities today, holding the promise of an accelerating recovery in June if the virus situation remains benign

Official PMIs from China show improvement in May, but still signals weak business activity.

NBS manufacturing PMI rose to 49.6 from 47.4 in April

NBS non-manufacturing PMI increased to 47.8 in May from April’s very poor reading of 41.9

— Hugo Pienaar (@hugopien) May 31, 2022

The purchasing managers’ index (#PMI) for #China‘s non-manufacturing sector came in at 47.8 in May, up from 41.9 in April, the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) said Tuesday.

— Beijing Business Today (@BusinessBeijing) May 31, 2022

The recovery should get a lift this week as Shanghai prepares to end its two-month lockdown at midnight.

My colleague Helen Davidson in Taipei explains:

Shanghai authorities have begun dismantling fences around housing compounds and ripping police tape off public squares and buildings, to the relief of the city’s 25 million residents, before a painful two-month lockdown is lifted at midnight.

On Monday evening, some of the people allowed out of their compounds for brief walks took advantage of suspended traffic to congregate for a beer and ice cream on deserted streets, but there was a sense of wariness and anxiety among residents.

Most will be stuck indoors again until midnight, as they have been for the past two months under a ruthlessly enforced lockdown that has caused income losses, stress and despair to millions struggling to access food or get emergency healthcare.

The prolonged isolation has fuelled public anger and rare protests inside Shanghai and battered the city’s manufacturing and export-heavy economy, disrupting supply chains in China and around the world, and slowing international trade.

Life is set to return to something more like normal from Wednesday, when the passes issued by residential buildings for people to go out for a few hours will be scrapped, public transport will resume and residents can go back to work.

Also coming up today

Inflation in the eurozone is expected to hit a new record high, as the surge in energy costs drive up the cost of living.

The Bank of England will report how many mortgages were approved in April.

Russia’s central bank is releasing an economic stability report. We also find out how Canada, India, Poland and Switzerland’s economies fared in the first three months of the year:

The agenda

  • 7.4am BST: French inflation report for May
  • 8am BST: Switzerland’s Q1 GDP report
  • 8.55am BST: German employment report for May
  • 9am BST: Poland’s Q1 GDP report
  • 9.30am BST: UK mortgage approvals and consumer credit data for April
  • 10am BST: Eurozone inflation report for May
  • 1pm BST: India’s Q1 GDP report
  • 1pm BST: Bank of Russia holds press conference on Financial Stability Review
  • 1.30pm BST: Canada’s Q1 GDP report
  • 2pm BST: US house price index
  • 3pm: US consumer confidence report from the Conference Board


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