As eastern China suffered record high levels of air pollution, Chinese fossil fuel shares slid whilst environmental protection stocks received a boost.
Authorities in Shanghai ordered a halt to construction work and told schoolchildren to stay inside in response to dangerous levels of air pollution. The smog has been blamed on coal burning, factories, car exhausts and weather patterns.
On Friday afternoon, atmospheric particular matter, know as PM 2.5, reached 502.5 micrograms per cubic meter. The figure is well above the World Health Organisation’s recommended safe level of around 25 micrograms per cubic metre.
According to Bloomberg, the air pollution led to China Shenhua Energy Company, the biggest coal producer, and a gauge of energy shares, dropping the most in two weeks. In contrast, Fujian Longking, which makes pollution control equipment, advanced 0.8%.
Zhang Yanbing, analyst at Zheshang Securities in Shanghai, told Bloomberg, “There’s uncertainty before data so there’s a lack of confidence to drive the index higher. The pollution is worse today. This is good for environmental stocks.”
A study published earlier this year found that pollution in northern China reduces life expectancy by around five-and-a-half years. The report said that China’s free coal policy had contributed to 500 million people losing more than 2.5 billion collective years of life expectancy during the 1990s.
In September, the Chinese government launched a new plan to reduce the number of coal-fired power plants in a bid to improve air quality in Beijing, Shanghai and the Guangdong regions.