FirstFT: Crude oil jumps over potential US ban on Russian oil imports

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The price of oil rose to its highest level since 2008 after US secretary of state Antony Blinken said Washington was in “very active discussions” with its European partners about a ban on oil imports from Russia.

International benchmark Brent hit $139.13 a barrel, almost 20 per cent above its settlement price on Friday. Derek Brower argues that oil prices may still climb higher even if the US shale industry increases production.

The restrictions would have potentially serious ramifications for the global economy and would mark an about-turn by the White House, which had rejected bipartisan calls to ban Russian oil imports to the US, saying an embargo would limit global supply and raise prices for consumers.

But growing energy security concerns triggered could step up Europe’s moves towards self-sufficiency and clean power, said climate envoys.

Attempts to evacuate 200,000 people from the Ukrainian city of Mariupol were abandoned for a second day amid heavy Russian bombardment. The war could lead to the fastest growing refugee crisis in Europe since the second world war, the UN refugee agency has warned. It could also lead to a food crisis in Ukraine as wheat shipments grind to a halt.

The White House confirmed yesterday it was negotiating with the Polish government to supply Kyiv with American F-16 jets to replace Russian-made warplanes that Ukrainian pilots are trained to fly.

More on Ukraine:

Track troop movements on our regularly updated map of the conflict and follow our live blog for the latest developments.

1. Visa, Mastercard and American Express suspend Russia operations The payment networks have said they will suspend operations following a request from Ukraine’s president. Separately, VTB Bank, Russia’s second-largest lender, is preparing to wind down its European operations. PwC and KPMG have also severed ties with their Russia and Belarus businesses.

2. UK falling behind EU rivals on tourist spending Britain is losing its position as the favoured destination for high-spending international tourists to the EU after the government abolished tax-free shopping at the start of last year, according to a study.

3. Unilever to set new healthy food targets The company is to publish nutrition scores for its food portfolio, which includes Ben & Jerry’s and Magnum ice-cream, Hellmann’s mayonnaise and Knorr stock cubes, against external health metrics and set targets following investor pressure.

4. Russia demands US guarantees over Iran nuclear accord Moscow is seeking written guarantees from Washington that US sanctions imposed on the country do not impede its ability to trade with Iran, a move that risks complicating efforts to revive the 2015 nuclear accord.

5. Europe faces building material shortages The continent is facing shortages of building materials as companies have stopped production because of surging energy costs and “chaotic” EU policies, the head of the world’s largest brickmaker has warned.

Coronavirus digest

  • There is urgency among UK government officials to reach out to the estimated 8.5 per cent of people aged 12 and over who remain unvaccinated.

  • US airlines are redrawing the country’s flight map as they cut routes that the pandemic rendered unviable and add service to cities that have prospered.

The day ahead

UK pledges $100mn in Ukraine aid Boris Johnson will announce extra aid as the prime minister receives Justin Trudeau and Mark Rutte, his Canadian and Dutch counterparts respectively, in Downing Street. It comes as Kyiv negotiators meet their Russian counterparts for a third round of talks.

French presidential election Today marks the deadline for candidates to collect enough sponsors to run in the country’s election. Emmanuel Macron left it until last week to declare his candidacy. The FT is tracking the national polls ahead of the first round of voting on April 10.

International Atomic Energy Agency meeting The organisation’s board of governors convenes in Vienna to discuss, among other items, the nuclear safety implications of the crisis in Ukraine.

UK MPs vote on economic crime bill vote The legislation would give the foreign property owners six months to reveal their identities as Downing Street cracks down on Kremlin-linked oligarchs. But Labour will call for the period to be shortened to 28 days.

George Floyd death trial The trial begins of three former Minneapolis police officers, charged with aiding and abetting unintentional second-degree murder and aiding and abetting second-degree manslaughter in relation to the death of Floyd in May 2020.

Keep up with the important business, economic and political stories with the FT’s Week Ahead. Click to subscribe here. And don’t miss our FT News Briefing audio show, a short daily rundown of the top global stories.

What else we’re reading

Sunak owes UK more than warmed-over Thatcherism As chancellor of the exchequer, Rishi Sunak is an important figure in Britain, which makes his Mais lecture worthy of close attention. But his speech failed to confront the failures of Margaret Thatcher’s legacy and answer important questions about stagnant productivity as well as living standards, writes Martin Wolf.

India’s uneven recovery Two years after the coronavirus pandemic plunged the country of 1.4bn into a recession, India is now the fastest-growing large economy in the world. But the bullish mood conceals a deep malaise. Will prime minister Narendra Modi pay a political price?

Why rewards for failure are toxic There was a howl of discontent last week when a knighthood was bestowed on Gavin Williamson, former UK education secretary. It represented a reward for screwing up and a promotion for an incompetent leader who fails upwards, writes Andrew Hill.

The office is fine but the commute is still atrocious The offers of free food, coffee and even back massages are all welcome as we return to our desks after two years of homeworking, writes Pilita Clark. But, she says, they are up against a formidable rival: the commute.

Why is the UK stock market so cheap? Returns from the British stock market have lagged behind international rivals since the 2016 Brexit vote. But there are more fundamental problems for what has been dubbed a “Jurassic Park” market. Our Lex team investigates in today’s big read.

House & Home

Some 150,000 people flock to the US desert city of Palm Springs every spring for a nostalgia fest of mid-century design. Helen Barrett attended the 11-day extravaganza for the Financial Times.

A festival week poolside cocktail party at the house © David A Lee

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