COVID-19 Bulletin: January 26

January 26, 2022 • Posted in Daily Bulletin

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  • Oil prices jumped 2% Tuesday as supply concerns mounted over political tensions in Eastern Europe. Crude futures were higher in late morning trading, with WTI up 2.4% at $87.67/bbl and Brent up 2.3% at $90.26/bbl. U.S. natural gas was 4.5% higher at $4.24/MMBtu.
  • The U.S. is in talks with major energy-producing nations to boost production of LNG that could be sent to Europe in case of emergency. 
  • Russia, the world’s second-largest oil exporter, will ship out just 1.31 million bpd of its flagship Urals crude next month, the smallest flow since September as the nation consumes more fuel domestically. 
  • Saudi Arabian production of dry natural gas has risen by one-third over the past decade:
Stand-alone natural gas wells driving new growth in Saudi Arabia’s natural gas production
  • France’s consumption of high-ethanol E85, made from sugar and grains, jumped by one-third last year as a surge in gasoline prices made it more attractive to consumers. 
  • Industrial prices in Spain are rising at a record pace, up 35.9% year over year in December, led by a doubling in energy prices during the same period.  
  • U.S. independent energy company Hess expects to spend 37% more on exploration and production this year as it puts greater focus on operations in Guyana and the U.S. Bakken shale basin. 
  • Shell may try to develop Namibia’s first deep water oil field after recently making a large offshore discovery in the southern African nation.   
  • Lawmakers in Nigeria, Africa’s most populous nation, are calling for an 18-month extension of a fuel subsidy over fears of the economic fallout caused by rising inflation. 
  • U.S. power plants could see tougher regulations on emissions in the coming months, EPA officials warned. 
  • By the end of the month, the European Commission is expected to adopt a draft that would grant certain gas and nuclear projects a green label during the continent’s energy transition, despite widespread criticism by stakeholders. 
  • Prices for European carbon permits are expected to rise sharply as more power plants switch to high-emitting coal amid a shortage of gas. 
  • Italian energy group Enel, Europe’s biggest utility, plans to build a new solar panel factory in the U.S. 
  • The U.K. plans to invest $42 million in floating offshore wind projects this year to help reduce its dependence on gas and accelerate a shift to renewables. 

Supply Chain

  • New York and the Northeast will receive a blast of cold air in the next few days, making a large winter storm this weekend more likely. 
  • Combined inbound volume fell 14% in December at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach as the queue of vessels waiting to unload surpassed 100 ships. 
  • U.S. manufacturers and other companies that use semiconductors are down to less than five days of inventory for key chips, eight times less than in 2019, the Commerce Department said Tuesday. 
  • Airbus will spearhead an outsize air-cargo unit by chartering its massive planes traditionally used to carry aircraft parts to inter-company sites. 
  • Prologis, a logistics real estate investor based in California, saw a 97.4% occupancy rate for its owned and managed portfolio in the fourth quarter. 
  • U.S. commercial-property sales totaled a record $809 billion in 2021, nearly double the previous year’s total. 
  • Container ship demolition fell to a record low of fewer than 20 vessels last year, as high demand and charter rates made even the oldest vessels desirable. 
  • CMA CGM’s $140 million purchase of an eight-year-old container ship is more than double the cost for a newbuild of the same vessel just a decade ago. 
  • Maritime research firm Drewry expects shipping line earnings to top a record $200 billion this year on an 8% increase in operating profits. 
  • J.B. Hunt saw a 32% increase in average revenue per loaded mile in the fourth quarter, excluding fuel surcharges, the company said. 
  • Australia considered but ultimately ruled out a plan to let teenagers as young as 16 drive forklift trucks to help combat supply chain worker shortages. 
  • Up to 250 XPO Logistics truckers hauling goods at Southern California ports and rail yards are petitioning to unionize in a bid to change their status from contractors to employees. 
  • Two rail industry unions representing 17,000 workers are considering a strike against Texas-based BNSF over restrictive workplace rules. 
  • More than 8,000 Kroger workers in Colorado ratified a new employment contract with the grocer, ending a nine-day strike. 
  • Fastenal’s sales growth picked up strongly in the fourth quarter after the industrial supplier spent 2021 closing more than 200 branches and focusing more on e-commerce operations. 
  • Texas Instruments plans to focus more on serving industrial and automotive customers this year following a 26% revenue gain in 2021, led by higher sales to those industries. 
  • Maersk is planning to launch an offshore vessel-charging company ahead of expected growth in the global fleet of battery-powered ships. 

Automotive: M. Holland’s 2022 Market Trends & Predictions

M. Holland’s Automotive Market Manager, Matt Zessin, shares his insight on the industry’s innovation and commitment to a more sustainable future. 

Domestic Markets

  • The U.S. reported 515,318 new COVID-19 infections and 2,911 virus fatalities Tuesday. Virtually all new cases are from the Omicron strain.
  • Higher transmission rates of the COVID-19 Omicron variant are offsetting the strain’s reduced severity, causing U.S. hospitalizations and deaths to nearly match levels of previous waves. Average daily fatalities have surpassed 2,100 for the first time since early last year. 
  • New weekly COVID-19 infections among U.S. children surpassed 1 million for the first time. 
  • The U.S. seven-day average for total COVID-19 hospitalizations fell for the fourth straight day to 156,042 yesterday. 
  • The White House withdrew its emergency COVID-19 vaccine mandate on large businesses after the Supreme Court blocked implementation of the measure earlier this month. Over one-third of U.S. employers still plan on imposing their own mandates, survey results show. 
  • Average COVID-19 infections in Oregon are up fivefold since Jan. 1. 
  • The World Health Organization is urging international researchers to monitor the COVID-19 Omicron “stealth” subvariant and assess its potential for causing more severe infection. The subvariant has been seen in small numbers in parts of Asia and Europe, and two cases were reported in Washington state. Since December 6, about 100 cases have been picked up across 26 states. 
  • Alabama, Mississippi and Wyoming have yet to fully vaccinate half of their population against COVID-19. 
  • Florida shut down all COVID-19 antibody treatment sites after the FDA limited emergency use authorizations for drugs made by Regeneron and Eli Lilly after data showed they are ineffective against the Omicron variant. 
  • California will require employers to give up to two weeks of paid time off for workers to recover from COVID-19 or provide for loved ones incapacitated by the virus.  
  • COVID-19 hospitalizations in New York are down 18% week over week. An appellate court reinstated the state’s indoor mask mandate Tuesday, reversing a Long Island judge’s ruling from Monday. 
  • Weekly COVID-19 infections in Colorado fell from 86,747 to 65,287 last week. 
  • Maine hit a two-month low for COVID-19 patients hospitalized in the ICU. 
  • Americans should be able to find their free, highly protective N95 masks at most pharmacies and healthcare centers that administer vaccines, officials say. 
  • Pfizer/BioNTech started trials for an adapted version of their COVID-19 vaccine that targets the Omicron variant, with results expected sometime during the first half of the year. 
  • Johnson & Johnson finished 2021 with its strongest quarter to date for COVID-19 vaccine sales, contributing to year-over-year corporate revenue growth as it prepares to separate its consumer-health division. 
  • The Conference Board’s index of consumer confidence — a survey that captures future spending of U.S. households — came in at 113.8 so far this month, down several points from December. 
  • Recent estimates show roughly 85% of the 22 million American jobs lost at the start of the pandemic have returned. 
  • Federal Reserve officials are likely to announce a final round of bond purchases before ending the pandemic-induced stimulus program by March, when the first interest rate hike is expected to kick in. 
  • More U.S. job hunters care more about having flexible schedules than the ability to work from home, a new survey shows. 
  • U.S. home-price growth slowed in November, the fourth straight month of deceleration, as months of fast-rising prices pushed some buyers out of the market. 
  • Most four-year colleges and universities are expected to continue making standardized tests optional for admitting students, forcing large test makers to revamp their operations and strategy. 
  • American Express saw a 30% revenue increase in the fourth quarter fueled by increased spending on travel and entertainment by young people. 
  • Microsoft reported stronger-than-expected earnings last quarter on strength in its cloud-services business alongside a 20% rise in sales, fueled by demand for personal computers. 
  • South Korea’s LG Energy Solution is partnering with GM to build a $2.1 billion battery plant at an unspecified U.S. location. 
  • GM confirmed plans for a multibillion-dollar investment to make electric pickups in Michigan, giving the Great Lakes region a boost in the industry-wide shift to battery-powered cars.
  • Telecom providers say restrictions on the rollout of 5G networks near airports have not impaired their ability to connect new customers
  • Fiber Industries, maker of polyester staple fiber for high-end performance clothing and auto fabrics, is investing $30 million to expand operations in South Carolina. 

International Markets

  • Twenty-one million new COVID-19 cases were reported globally last week, a record.
  • New COVID-19 cases in Italy more than doubled from 77,696 Monday to more than 186,000 Tuesday. 
  • Romania recorded nearly 35,000 new COVID-19 cases yesterday, nearly twice as many as the day before when it set the prior record. 
  • Germany’s parliament will debate a possible COVID-19 vaccine mandate
  • Russia cut isolation times from fourteen days to seven due to surging cases of the COVID-19 Omicron variant.  
  • The U.K. reported 439 COVID-19 deaths yesterday, an 11-month high. Roughly 5% of the nation’s students were out of school last week with the virus. 
  • Australia recorded 82 new COVID-19 deaths Tuesday, a near-record exactly two years after the virus emerged in the nation.
  • Hong Kong logged 124 new COVID-19 cases Tuesday, prompting the island to further tighten its aggressive pandemic restrictions.
  • China reported 15 more COVID-19 cases among Beijing Olympic staff yesterday, adding to more than 70 reported over the weekend. 
  • A COVID-19 outbreak onboard an Australian aid ship headed for volcano-stricken Tonga could cause the island’s first wave of the virus, officials fear. 
  • European officials ended quarantine and testing measures for intra-continent fliers, citing their reduced effectiveness against the spread of the highly infectious COVID-19 Omicron variant. 
  • More than two dozen African nations have yet to vaccinate 10% of their population, the International Monetary Fund said.   
  • Europe is expected to approve COVID-19 antiviral pills made by Pfizer and Merck within the next two months
  • The International Monetary Fund downgraded its forecast for global economic growth from about 5% to 4.4% this year on inflation and COVID concerns, with the largest drop expected to come from the U.S. 
  • Canada is expected to start an aggressive series of interest rate hikes this week as the central bank works to bring down inflation from three-decade highs. 
  • Canada had just 86,000 homes for sale at the end of December on a seasonally adjusted basis, the fewest in 25 years. 
  • Toyota, beset by supply chain snarls the past two years, made ambitious plans to raise production 22% next fiscal year to a record 11 million vehicles
  • Hyundai expects sales to rebound 20% the first half of this year as production picks up following a build in computer chip inventories.  
  • Stellantis will begin exporting more to Russia and is hiring nearly 900 workers at a French plant on higher European demand for commercial vehicles. 
  • Volkswagen is partnering with Bosch to develop autonomous driving software for its fleet of vehicles beginning in 2023. 

At M. Holland

  • M. Holland’s 2021 EcoVadis rating improved year over year, reflecting a continued commitment to sustainability and corporate social responsibility initiatives. See the press release.
  • M. Holland’s 3D Printing group offers a rapid response alternative for producing selected parts where resin availability is tight. 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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