COVID-19 Bulletin: December 29

December 29, 2021 • Posted in Daily Bulletin

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  • Oil prices gained half a percent Tuesday to near one-month highs on reports of a 3.1-million-barrel U.S. crude draw, in line with expectations. Futures were higher in late morning trading, with WTI up 1.2% at $76.92/bbl and Brent up 1.0% at $79.70/bbl.
  • U.S. natural gas futures retreated from three-week highs Tuesday on forecasts for milder weather and less heating demand than previously expected. But natural gas futures bounced 1.7% higher to $4.12/MMBtu in late morning trading yesterday, as wintry weather took hold in parts of the country. 
  • Boston gas price tracking firm GasBuddy predicts U.S. gasoline prices to peak at $3.79/gallon in May while staying generally higher for most of next year. 
  • European natural gas prices fell almost 10% yesterday on a flood of incoming U.S. LNG cargoes at a time when industrial shutdowns and warm weather are curbing demand. Some U.S. vessels are diverting from planned routes to make their way to Europe amid an increasingly volatile energy situation caused by halted Russian gas flows
  • Russia is expected to miss its May target of reaching pre-pandemic levels of oil output due to slowed production from Siberian wells.
  • Ecuador, Libya and Nigeria have each claimed force majeure on parts of their oil production this month due to maintenance issues and oilfield shutdowns. 
  • China completed the first 1,000-MW unit of a major new coal generating facility in Inner Mongolia, the country’s largest site under construction.
  • Our most recent list of force majeure and allocation announcements from suppliers is here.

Supply Chain

  • The Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach declined to impose new container dwell fees for a seventh consecutive week on signs of eased congestion. 
  • A 1,000-TEU containership is under investigation after ramming into a Taiwanese dock and causing extensive damage on Dec. 26.  
  • UPS will raise its fuel surcharge up to 10% for domestic air and ground services starting Jan. 3, the company’s third fuel surcharge hike in less than eight months.
  • Air cargo crews in Hong Kong will be subject to a new three-day hotel quarantine requirement after outbreaks of COVID-19. The island’s main airline warned of dramatic disruption to supply chains based on the new policy. 
  • Rebounding rail freight forced many Midwest rail yards to take unusual steps to reduce congestion the past year. 
  • State and local government borrowing for new infrastructure projects reached a second straight 10-year high in the U.S., a result of record amounts of cash pouring into municipal bond funds. 
  • British luxury car maker McLaren delayed the launch of a new plug-in hybrid model to July of next year due to computer chip shortages, its third production delay of the vehicle.  
  • A U.S. freight forwarder will begin flying planeloads of potatoes to Japan amid the nation’s severe shortage, which recently prompted McDonald’s to ration french fries. 
  • Extended holiday return policies could backlash on U.S. retail supply chains after a record $112 billion gift-buying season, analysts say. 
  • Apple is doling out stock bonuses up to $180,000 for some employees to prevent labor shortages caused by defections to other tech companies. 
  • Prices for palm oil, the world’s most consumed edible oil, are expected to stay excessively high in 2022 due to a chronic worker shortage in top producing countries and heavier rains than usual in growing regions. 

Domestic Markets

  • The U.S. reported 377,014 new COVID-19 infections and 2,337 virus fatalities Tuesday. The seven-day average for new COVID-19 infections hit a record 265,427, shattering the previous record of 252,000 infections per day from January 11.
  • States are broadly rejecting new pandemic restrictions despite surging case counts.
  • Roughly 59% of new U.S. COVID-19 cases are from the Omicron variant, new data shows, while evidence suggests hospitalizations are less likely from the strain than other variants.  
  • COVID-19 fatalities among young people are greater than at any time during the pandemic.
  • COVID-19 hospitalizations among U.S. children rose 35% last week to the highest levels of the pandemic, despite research showing the Omicron variant is not more severe for the age group than other strains. At a hospital in Washington, D.C., test positivity rates for children surpassed 50%, while in New York City the number of hospitalized children has risen fivefold since the start of December.
  • COVID-19 hospitalizations in New York state jumped at the fastest pace since April 2020 yesterday, as roughly 2% of Manhattan’s population tested positive for COVID-19 last week and the city’s seven-day positivity rate rose to 20%.  
  • California became the first state to top 5 million COVID-19 cases. COVID-19 hospitalizations in the state are up 14% from a week ago to the most since October.
  • Texas’ COVID-19 positivity rate is above 20%, the highest level of the pandemic. Dallas County elevated its COVID-19 risk level to Red as hospitalizations jumped 50% in the past week amid soaring infections.   
  • Federal emergency workers were sent to Pennsylvania hospitals to help combat a surge of new COVID-19 patients. 
  • Rhode Island and the D.C.-Maryland-Virginia area are the latest to report record new COVID-19 cases. 
  • The seven-day average of new COVID-19 infections in Illinois hit a record 16,040 yesterday. Illinois officials are telling residents not to attend large New Year’s gatherings due to rising COVID-19 infections straining the state’s healthcare resources. 
  • Florida’s Miami-Dade County’s public hospital network banned visitation due to rising COVID-19 admissions, while garbage sat uncollected in the county due to a rash of infections at the sanitation department. The county has turned Miami Zoo into a 24-hour COVID-19 test site.  Researchers expect new COVID-19 infections in Florida to peak around 40,000 per day by February. 
  • The FDA said at-home COVID-19 tests are less accurate in detecting the Omicron variant and more apt to register false negative results.  
  • Another 1,100 U.S. flights were canceled Tuesday as disruption continues over COVID-19 infections among staff and crews. Since Sunday, over 8,000 flights have been canceled and nearly 23,000 delayed. 
  • Roughly a quarter of personnel on a U.S. naval ship in Cuba have tested positive for COVID-19. 
  • U.S. officials are tracking 89 cruise ships with COVID-19 outbreaks amid calls from lawmakers for renewed bans on sailing.
  • The Holiday Bowl was canceled two hours before kickoff yesterday when UCLA withdrew due to COVID-19 protocols. To date, five bowl games have been canceled due to the virus.  
  • The NBA shortened required COVID-19 quarantine periods due to significant disruption to team rosters and the playing schedule. 
  • The least vaccinated U.S. states led holiday retail shopping this year, a potential significant contributor to rising COVID-19 case counts. 
  • Nearly $100 billion of Moderna’s market value has been erased since the U.S.’s approved at-home COVID-19 antiviral pills made by Pfizer and Merck. 
  • Growth in U.S. home prices surged 18.4% in October, slower than September’s 19.1% rate. 
  • A Rochester-based recycler is repurposing up to 95% of the materials used in high-tech electronics batteries, including from laptops and electric vehicles.
  • California regulators are seeking to ban recycling symbols on plastic bags, which generally can’t make it through municipal recycling programs. 

International Markets

At M. Holland

  • M. Holland will be closed Friday, Dec. 31 for the New Year’s holiday. We wish all a safe and happy new year!
  • M. Holland’s 3D Printing group offers a rapid response alternative for producing selected parts where resin availability is tight during prevailing force majeure. For more information, email our 3D Printing team.
  • Market Expertise: M. Holland offers a host of resources to clients, prospects and suppliers across nine strategic markets.

For all COVID-19 updates and notices, please refer to the M. Holland website.

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