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Air quality set to plummet in India’s capital after clean spell

By Neha Arora and Mayank Bhardwaj

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Air quality set to plummet in India's capital after clean spell
© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: A residential area is seen shrouded in smog in New Delhi, India, November 9, 2020. REUTERS/Danish Siddiqui

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By Neha Arora and Mayank Bhardwaj

NEW DELHI (Reuters) – Favourable weather conditions led to a rare drop in pollution in India’s capital New Delhi, with residents last month breathing the cleanest air in at least four years but the authorities are warning that air quality is set to drop sharply in November.

A delayed end to the monsoon, intermittent rains and a sharp pick-up in wind speeds ensured that the concentration of hazardous, small airborne particles known as PM2.5 in a cubic metre of air averaged 72 in October when air quality typically takes a turn for the worse.

That was sharply down from an average concentration of 126 recorded in October 2020 – 25 times over the World Health Organization’s safe limit – according to data gathered by the state-run Central Pollution Control Board.

But a confluence of factors, including falling temperatures, a drop-off in winter wind speed and farmers preparing to torch farm waste of the previous rice crop to ready the field for planting the wheat crop, is likely to turn the air hazardous.

“Because of frequent rains, most farmers didn’t get to burn crop stubble, and now they have an even shorter window to dispose of crop waste,” said Anumita Roychowdhury, an executive director at the Centre for Science and Environment think tank.

“As rains ebb, more and more farmers will rush to burn rice stubble, and that will happen when broader weather patterns will allow pollutants to hang in the air, resulting in a thick smog,” Roychowdhury said.

Poor air quality over the capital is a reminder of the challenges India faces in reducing pollution as world leaders meet at the United Nations COP26 summit in Scotland to agree on strategies to fight global warming.

Adding to the concerns, the Diwali festival of lights falls on Thursday when Indians will set off firecrackers as part of an ancient Hindu tradition.

Delhi has banned the sale of firecrackers, but authorities rarely get to enforce such curbs.

“The October air was clean, but we’re really worried about November,” said a senior government official involved in framing policies to curb air pollution. “Stubble burning could peak right after Diwali.”

Crop waste burning accounts for about a quarter of air pollution in October and November.

Since 2018, India has been giving individual farmers a 50% subsidy and farm cooperatives 80% subsidy to buy machines that dispose of rice paddy stubble left out in the field by mechanised harvesters.

Despite government subsidies, the machines that collect crop stubble and turn them into mulch are too expensive to buy. Farmers also complain that they need to pay upfront and then claim subsidies later – a process that takes about 10 months.

“The Punjab and Haryana governments are responsible for implementing the subsidy programme, and their implementation may be flawed to some extent, but every year more and more farmers are using this equipment to get rid of crop stubble,” the government official said, referring to India’s two bread basket states.

In October this year, crop waste burning came down by 52% against the same month last year, government data showed.

In Pakistan’s Lahore city, not far from the border with India, the air quality index rose to 341, the worst in the world on Monday, according to IQ Air. On Tuesday, air quality in Pakistan’s second-most populous city was 162.

In the winter months, industrial and vehicular emissions, smoke from brick kilns and crop fires lead to a sharp spike in air pollution in Lahore, just like in India.

Commodities

Copper price chart fluctuates at previous closing levels

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Copper price chart

Copper prices chart are fluctuating slightly near the level of the previous close as investors estimate a lot of factors, trading data shows.

September futures on copper on the Comex exchange are getting cheaper by a symbolic 0.01%, to $ 3.5515 a pound.

On the London Metal Exchange (LME) in previous trading, the cost of a ton of copper with delivery in three months increased by 1.85% to $7,870.5; aluminum — by 0.54%, to $2,416. Zinc — by 1.1%, to $3,488.5.

Quotes in the morning do not show any pronounced dynamics for a lot of reasons. For example, the price of copper is affected by the tense situation between the U.S. and China, the largest consumer of this type of industrial metal.

Also, the price dynamics are influenced by macro statistics — exports from China in July jumped by 18% year-on-year, while the forecast growth was only 15%, which, in turn, cut some concerns about the demand for metals in its largest market.

At the same time, investors continue to fear a recessionary economy. Expectations of a further increase in the discount rate by the U.S. Federal Reserve System after the release of data from the labor market in the country have increased fears.

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Commodities

Natural gas price in Europe per 1,000 m3 hits $2,100 on the exchange

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Natural gas price europe per m3

Natural gas price Europe per 1,000m3: September gas futures contracts (benchmark TTF) were trading at $2,100 per 1,000m3 on Monday, gaining some 1.6% against Friday’s settlement price in the first hour of trading, London’s ICE exchange data showed.

So far, the current price minimum is $2,056.7 (-0.5% compared to Friday’s settlement price of $2,066.5). The maximum is $2,100 per 1,000m3 (+1.6%).

Last year the European market faced a gas collapse. Experts attributed the collapse to limited supply from major suppliers, low occupancy rates of underground gas storage facilities in Europe, and high demand for liquefied natural gas in Asia.

Right now, Europe continues to be under pressure due to continued supply strains from Russia. Russian gas exports have fallen since the outbreak of the war in Ukraine: shipments via Nord Stream and the Ukrainian gas transportation system have dropped significantly, and the Yamal-Europe pipeline has stopped altogether.

The average monthly settlement price of the nearest gas futures on the ICE increased sharply, by almost 50%, from $1,180 per 1,000m3 in June to about $1,805 in July, while in the middle of summer last year it did not exceed $500. In the last days of July gas quotations reached $2,400 per 1,000m3 for the first time in four months. Such steadily high prices have not been seen in the entire history of European gas hubs since 1996.

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Commodities

Price of gold falls on expectations of further US Federal Reserve rate hike

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price of gold falls

Price of gold falls: the price of the precious metal on Monday morning slightly decreased on the prospects of further interest rate hikes by the U.S. Federal Reserve, according to trading data.

The December gold futures price on the New York Comex Exchange is down $2.75, or 0.15%, to $1,788.7 a troy ounce. September silver futures went up 0.24% to $19.89 an ounce.

The precious metals market showed a negative trend on Monday morning, fueled by expectations of further interest rate hikes by the U.S. Federal Reserve after the release of the country’s labor market data.

Thus, the unemployment rate in July fell to 3.5% from the June level of 3.6%, while the number of the employed in non-farm industries increased by 528,000. Analysts had expected the figure to remain at June’s level. The increase in nonfarm payrolls was forecast at 250,000.

“Support from geopolitical tensions “was countered by the resilience of the U.S. dollar after the release of a credible U.S. jobs report and hawkish comments from Fed officials,” Ravindra Rao, vice president of commodities at Kotak Securities, told Bloomberg news agency.

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