🌍 Natural gas prices skyrocket

A man wearing personal protective equipment (PPE) stands on a street in Hong Kong.
A man wearing personal protective equipment (PPE) stands on a street in Hong Kong.
Image: Dale de la Rey/AFP via Getty Images

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Here’s what you need to know

Natural gas prices are skyrocketing in Europe. On Monday, prices touched €345 ($375) per megawatt-hour. Wheat futures also neared record highs—which could be a boon for India—while nickel soared as much as 62%.

China recorded its most daily covid-19 cases in two years. While cases rise on the mainland, Hong Kong alone saw 25,000 new infections on Monday.

Beijing won’t condemn Russia. Instead, foreign minister Wang Yi yesterday called the country China’s “most strategic partner.” Meanwhile, the US is sending more troops to Europe, deaths among Ukrainian civilians are climbing, and more than 1.7 million refugees have fled the war.

Coinbase blocked 25,000 Russia-linked wallets. The cryptocurrency exchange said it believes the accounts were engaging in illicit activity such as evading sanctions.

Moderna’s market value shrunk by $50 billion. Shares for the covid-19 vaccine maker are down more than 50% this year.

General Motors will make battery parts in Canada. The carmaker is working with South Korea’s POSCO Chemical on a $400 million facility as electric vehicle demand grows. Meanwhile, Aston Martin will make EV batteries with Britishvolt.

What to watch for

Apple is poised to announce new products at its Peek Performance event at 1pm eastern time today. Rumors are the Cupertino, Calif.-based company will unveil a new iPhone SE with 5G connectivity.

There’s also speculation that the company will reveal a new iPad, a redesigned Macbook, and new Apple TV shows. More unlikely is the highly anticipated VR or AR headsets Apple is reportedly working on.

The names of its events typically give a clue about what will be announced—September 2020’s Time Flies event featured a new Apple Watch, for example. Any guesses what Peek Performance is hinting at?

Russian sanctions take hold

While the US and Europe have thus far stayed out of direct conflict with Russia—though they’ve gone to great lengths to arm Ukrainians on the front lines—they have unleashed a heavy assault of economic sanctions. The coordinated effort likely caught Russian president Vladimir Putin off guard. Russia’s businesses and citizens quickly felt the impact.

Quartz’s recent coverage shows the consequences so far:

⚔️ The West took aim at Russia’s oligarchs, while the Russian middle class has been caught in the crossfire.

🇨🇳 With Russia locked out of parts of the Western financial system, China has an enticing alternative.

🛩 Sanctions are bringing Russia’s airline industry to a grinding halt.

🇮🇳 India’s ties to Russia could make it the next target of US sanctions.

🤔 Is lifting US sanctions on Iran and Venezuela worth it to replace Russian oil?

Economic warfare at an unprecedented level

The speed, scale, and sweeping nature of the Russian sanctions make them the equivalent of an economic blitzkrieg. Never before has such a large country been so swiftly sanctioned at such scale. ✦ This week’s member-exclusive Forecast email looks at how it all came together so quickly, and what the West’s next moves might be. Not yet a member? Try it free for seven days.

Handpicked Quartz

🛢 Shell is already backtracking on its boycott of Russian oil

📉 The Indian rupee hit a record low against the US dollar

🗳 How African countries voted on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine

⛽️ What Europe can learn from the 1970s oil crisis: Don’t fear high prices

🤑 How rich are Russia’s oligarchs?

🔍 Good luck finding a covid-19 “test to treat” location near you, America

Surprising discoveries

Vladimir Putin was stripped of his judo titles. The International Judo Federation also removed Russian oligarch Arkady Rotenberg from its executive committee.

Japan’s “killing stone” broke in two. The evil spirit of a nine-tailed fox rumored to be trapped inside of it may be on the loose.

The Amazon rainforest is at a tipping point. Soon, it could look more like a grassy savannah.

Some very old rock paintings appear to show a giant sloth towering over people. Or maybe it’s just a capybara? Scientists are undecided.

Fish are a sign of wealth and success in Chinese culture. That’s why Domino’s put fish sticks on a special Lunar New Year pizza in 2016. Learn how the fried cuisine went global in the newest episode of the Quartz Obsession podcast.

🐟 Listen on: Apple Podcasts | Spotify | Google | Stitcher

Our best wishes for a productive day. Send any news, comments, judo titles, and living stones to hi@qz.com. Get the most out of Quartz by downloading our iOS app and becoming a member. Today’s Daily Brief was brought to you by Scott Nover, Liz Webber, and Morgan Haefner.