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The best new wellbeing destinations

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Travel and travel planning are being disrupted by the worldwide spread of coronavirus. For the latest updates, read the FT’s coverage of the outbreak

Fill the senses in Brazil
Botanique, the intimate resort in the mountains bordering São Paulo and Minas Gerais states owned by Brazilians Ricardo and Fernanda Semler, was one of Brazil’s first genuinely sustainable retreats when it opened – and was covered first in HTSI – almost a decade ago. Between the organic terraced produce gardens, lush spa and countless trails for hiking and hacking, there didn’t seem to be much room for improvement. But if one name can up the ante on such promise, it’s sustainability pioneers Six Senses, who are about to take on management of the entire property – adding 14 new villas to the existing suite-villa count of 20 (plus a few dozen branded residences for those who fall hard for the Mantiqueira Mountains’ fresh air, native rainforest and charmed remove from São Paulo’s urban fray). There are plans to elevate the wellness and fitness offerings too, expanding the spa and incorporating signature anti-ageing, detox and immune-boosting programmes. sixsenses.com; from about £345

Great Plains Selinda Camp, Botswana
Great Plains Selinda Camp, Botswana © Andrew Howard
Accommodation at Selinda
Accommodation at Selinda © Andrew Howard

Embrace the great outdoors in Botswana
Botswana – which reopened its borders to international travellers last month – has some very compelling escapes that put the great outdoors at the centre of the show. The team at Great Plains Conservation has completely renovated the camps at Selinda (in the Linyanti) and Duba Plains (in the heart of the Okavango Delta). These were already intimate places, with just a handful of tents. But included in all the newness are the Selinda and Duba Plains Suites – the lodges’ signature two-bedroom tents, set away from the main camps and operated as standalone offerings (meaning guests have their own cooks, guides, house staff and even entrance). The net: near-360-degree privacy, so they can immerse entirely, day and night, in the wellbeing that total solitude in spectacular nature brings. greatplainsconservation.com; from $7,340, exclusive use

South Africa’s Babylonstoren
South Africa’s Babylonstoren
The courtyard of Babylonstoren’s owner’s house
The courtyard of Babylonstoren’s owner’s house

Kick back in Cape Dutch country
We’re not shy about declaring our love for Babylonstoren, in South Africa’s ravishingly pretty Cape Winelands. Its owners, Koos Bekker and Karen Roos – who more recently gave us The Newt in Somerset – first delighted guests and garden enthusiasts here at their maiden hotel venture, an 18th-century Cape Dutch farm remade with contemporary interiors (Roos is the former editor-in-chief of the South African edition of Elle Decoration) and acres of gardens full of glorious things to eat, drink and smell (the walled chamomile garden is a favourite feature: enter in the early morning or evening, walk barefoot among the thousands of blooms, then sit down on the bench at its centre and contemplate the heavenly scent that fills the air). Next month, the Roos-Bekkers will debut the Fynbos Family House, which accompanies the recently built Fynbos Cottages. Set away from the main farm, with views over the vineyards, the Family House’s five bedrooms, own walled garden and signature Babylonstoren “cube” – the ultra-sleek glass conservatory style found in all the suites and cottages, for maximising the outdoors-in effect of the surrounding landscape – are an ideal family or group escape, but with all the perks of the farm close at hand. babylonstoren.com; from about £670

Dishes from the Joel Robuchon-signed restaurant at The Woodward, Geneva
Dishes from the Joel Robuchon-signed restaurant at The Woodward, Geneva

Pampering in Geneva
Anyone who’s been to the spectacular spa at The Lanesborough in London knows: the team at the Oetker Collection does holistic wellness-beauty-fitness extremely well. This is good news for those based in Geneva, who can now avail themselves of the full experience at The Woodward, the newest Oetker-flagged European property. The lakefront Quai Wilson situation is pretty mint, as promise to be the Pierre-Yves Rochon-designed rooms and suites, and (if molecular wizardry and showy plating are your things), the properly fancy Joël Robuchon-signed restaurant. But spare some time – perhaps even a whole day – for The Woodward’s 1,200sq m spa, with its airy treatment suites, 21m indoor lap pool, Swedish baths and hydrotherapies, full fitness centre and very swank Guerlain Wellness Institute, where the menu includes skincare treatments you won’t find elsewhere. oetkercollection.com; from about £1,250

@mariashollenbarger





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Emerging Markets

Tech-heavy Taiwan stock index plunges on Covid outbreak

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Taiwan’s stock market, home to some of the world’s biggest tech companies, suffered one of the largest drops in its history as investors were rocked by a worsening Covid-19 outbreak.

The Taiex fell as much as 8.55 per cent on Wednesday, the index’s worst intraday fall since 1969, according to Bloomberg. It finished down 4.1 per cent.

Construction, rubber, automotive and financials — sectors retail investors had been shifting into from technology in recent months — were the worst hit in the sell-off.

The world’s largest contract chipmaker, Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company, which has a 30 per cent weighting in the index, fell as much as 9.3 before recovering ground to be down 1.9, while Apple supplier Hon Hai Precision Industry, also known as Foxconn, dropped 9.8 per cent before paring losses to be down 4.7 per cent.

While Taiwan’s sell-off was related to domestic Covid-19 problems, it followed recent declines in global markets as investors worried about possible inflationary pressures.

The falls came as Taiwan’s government was expected to partially close down public life to contain a worsening coronavirus outbreak — something the country had managed to avoid for more than a year.

“The reason that triggered the escalated sell-off during the trading session is the new [Covid-19] cases to be reported this afternoon, and probably the raising of the pandemic alert level,” said Patrick Chen, head of Taiwan research at CLSA. “On top of that, the market before today was already at a point where the index was at an inflection point.”

Taiwan’s strict border controls and quarantine system and meticulous contact tracing measures had helped it avoid community spread of Covid-19 until recently.

That success, which allowed Taipei to forego lockdowns, helped boost the local economy, which grew about 3 per cent last year and 8.2 per cent in the first quarter of 2021.

But health authorities announced 16 locally transmitted confirmed cases on Wednesday, for three of which the infection source was unclear — a sign of widening spread in the community. Authorities had confirmed seven untraced cases on Tuesday, and domestic media reported that the government might introduce partial lockdown measures.

President Tsai Ing-wen called on the public to be vigilant but avoid panicking.

Taiwan’s stock market rose almost 80 per cent over the past year, peaking at a historical high late last month. It is now down 8.5 per cent from that mark.

Retail investors have increasingly moved out of technology stocks in recent weeks, reducing the sector’s weight in trading volume from almost 80 per cent at its height to just over 50 per cent.

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China factory gate prices climb on global commodities boom

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The price of goods leaving factories in China rose at the fastest pace in more than three years, on the back of a rally in commodities supported by the country’s economic recovery.

The producer price index rose 6.8 per cent in April year-on-year, beating economists’ expectations and surpassing March’s increase of 4.4 per cent.

The rate was driven in part by comparison with a low base last year in the early stages of the pandemic. But it also reflects a global surge in the prices of raw materials that was first stoked by China and now incorporates expectations of recovering global demand.

While PPI prices in China have leapt, economists suggested there was limited spillover into consumer prices and that the central bank was unlikely to react. China’s consumer price index added just 0.9 per cent in April, the National Bureau of Statistics said on Tuesday, although it touched a seven-month high.

“It tells us that demand at this moment is super strong,” said Larry Hu, head of greater China economics at Macquarie, of the PPI data, although he suggested policymakers would see the increase as “transitory” and “look through it”.

“We’re going to see some reflation trends,” he added.

Signs of tightening in China’s credit conditions have drawn scrutiny from global investors eyeing the prospect of higher inflation as the global economy recovers from the pandemic, especially in the US, which releases consumer price data on Wednesday.

China’s PPI index remained mired in negative territory for most of 2020 following the outbreak of coronavirus, but has started to gather momentum this year. Gross domestic product growth in China returned to pre-pandemic levels in the final quarter of 2020.

An industrial frenzy in China has stoked demand for commodities such as oil, copper and iron ore that make up a significant portion of the index and have helped to push it higher. 

Policymakers in China have moved to tighten credit conditions, as well as attempted to rein in the steel sector. Ting Lu, chief China economist at Nomura, said the relevant question now was “whether the rapid rise of raw materials prices will dent real demand, given pre-determined credit growth”.

Retail sales in China have lagged behind the growth rate of industrial production, putting downward pressure on CPI, which has also been weakened by lower pork prices that rose sharply on the back of African swine fever. Core CPI, which strips out food and energy, rose 0.7 per cent in April 

Julian Pritchard-Evans, senior China economist at Capital Economics, said that producer prices were feeding through into the rebound in consumer prices, but also suggested that pressures on the former were “likely to be mostly transient”.

He added that output prices for durable consumer goods were rising at their fastest level on record.

China’s rapid recovery has been driven by its industrial sector, which has churned out record quantities of steel and fed into a construction boom that policymakers are now trying to constrain. On Monday, iron ore prices hit their highest level on record, while copper prices also surged.



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Iron ore hits record high as commodities continue to boom

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The price of iron ore hit a record high on Monday in the latest sign of booming commodity markets, which have gone into overdrive in recent weeks as large economies recover from the pandemic.

The steelmaking ingredient, an important source of income for the mining industry, rose 8.5 per cent to a record high of almost $230 a tonne fuelled by strong demand from China where mills have cranked up production.

Other commodities also rose sharply, including copper, which hit a record high of $10,747 a tonne before paring gains. The increases are part of a broad surge in the cost of raw materials that has lasted more than a year and which is fanning talk of another supercycle — a prolonged period where prices remain significantly above their long term trend.

The price of timber has also hit a record high as US sawmills struggle to keep pace with demand in the run-up to peak homebuilding season in the summer.

“Commodity demand signals are firing on all cylinders amid a synchronised recovery across the world’s economic powerhouses,” said Bart Melek, head of commodity strategy at TD Securities.

Strong demand from China, the world’s biggest consumer of commodities, international spending on post-pandemic recovery programmes, supply disruptions and big bets on the green energy transition explain the surge in commodity prices.

Commodities have also been boosted by a weaker US dollar and moves by investors to stock up on assets that can act as a hedge against inflation.

The S&P GSCI spot index, which tracks price movements for 24 raw materials, is up 26 per cent this year.

Strong investor demand pushed commodity assets held by fund managers to a new record of $648bn in April, according to Citigroup. All sectors saw monthly gains with agriculture and precious metals leading the way, the bank said.

Agricultural commodities have had an especially strong run owing to rising Chinese demand and concerns of a drought in Brazil. Dryness in the US, where planting for this year is under way, is also adding to the upward rise in prices. Corn, which is trading at $7.60 a bushel and soyabeans at $16.22, are at levels not seen since 2013.

“From a macro economic environment to strong demand and production concerns, the ingredients are all there for the supercycle,” said Dave Whitcomb of commodity specialist Peak Trading Research.

Rising copper and iron ore prices are a boon for big miners, which are on course to record earnings that will surpass records set during the China-driven commodity boom of the early 2000s.

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JPMorgan reckons Rio Tinto and BHP will be the largest corporate dividend payers in Europe this year, paying out almost $40bn to shareholders. Shares in Rio, the world’s biggest iron ore producer, hit a record high above £67 on Monday.

Brent crude, the international oil benchmark, has crept back up
towards $70 a barrel, which it surpassed in March for the first time in
more than a year, recovering ground lost as the pandemic
slashed demand for crude and roiled markets.

Supply cuts by leading oil producers have helped to bolster the market
as consumption has begun to recover around the world.

While some Wall Street banks have hailed the start of a new supercycle, with some traders talking of a return to $100 a barrel oil, others are less convinced. The International Energy Agency said oil supplies still remain plentiful meaning any talk of a supercycle is premature.



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