COVID-19 Bulletin: September 15

September 15, 2021 • Posted in Daily Bulletin

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  • Oil prices stayed flat Tuesday as Tropical Storm Nicholas caused less damage to Gulf Coast energy infrastructure than expected.
    • Colonial Pipeline, the U.S.’s largest gas line, partially resumed operations
    • Power outages temporarily halted production at Royal Dutch Shell’s Perdido offshore platform and Freeport’s LNG processing plant on the Texas coast.
    • Local ports have resumed operating with restrictions.
    • Power outages halted production at LyondellBasell’s plastics plant in Matagorda County, Texas. 
  • Roughly 40% of regional U.S. Gulf Coast production remained offline as of Tuesday.
  • Crude futures were higher in mid-day trading, with WTI up 3.1% at $72.61/bbl and Brent up 2.7% at $75.58/bbl. Natural gas was 1.1% higher at $5.32/MMBtu. 
  • The International Energy Agency, OPEC and the U.S. Energy Information Administration all upped their forecasts for global oil demand next year above pre-pandemic levels. 
  • The price of natural gas in the U.K. increased 6.9% yesterday to a new record amid concerns over tight supply heading into the winter season. 
  • China will sell roughly 7.38 million barrels of crude oil from its strategic reserves on Sept. 24, the first in what is expected to be a string of emergency sales to lower fuel prices in the nation. 
  • The New York Stock Exchange is creating a new tradeable asset class for enterprises involved in carbon sequestration.  
  • Our most recent list of force majeure and allocation announcements from suppliers is here.  

Supply Chain

  • Roughly 118,000 Texas homes and businesses are still without power following the landfall of Tropical Storm Nicholas, with more outages expected as heavy rains continue to drench the Houston region. Flash flood warnings have been issued for the next several days, while Port Houston closed its container terminals. Up to 20 inches of rain is possible along the central Gulf Coast over the coming days, including battered Louisiana, still rebuilding from the devastation of Hurricane Ida. 
  • Container terminals at China’s Shanghai and Ningbo ports reopened Tuesday following temporary shutdowns caused by Typhoon Chanthu. 
  • After logging one of its highest-productivity months ever in August, the Virginia Port Authority expects that current volume strength will continue throughout the year, with TEU volumes already up 24% in September from a year ago. 
  • British ports saw a 38% traffic volume increase from April to June this year, led by higher imports. 
  • The U.K. has delayed implementing some post-Brexit import controls for the second time due to continued strain on regional supply chains. 
  • With just a quarter of the globe’s seafarers vaccinated against COVID-19, owners and flag states are increasingly considering vaccine mandates
  • Steel prices continue to skyrocket, with a Midwest index estimated price of $1,940 per ton at the start of September, up from around $560 for the same time in both 2019 and 2020. 
  • Artificial Christmas trees are the latest consumer product to experience massive price spikes and delayed shipments due to pandemic-induced supply-chain and production disruption. 
  • With truck drivers in short supply, the American Trucking Associations warned that the White House’s vaccine or weekly testing mandate for employers with over 100 employees could divide the industry into two camps.  
  • High freight and logistics prices are driving high valuations for 3PLs, with some acquisitions fetching double-digit multiples of earnings.
  • Toyota will produce 330,000 fewer vehicles than planned in October due to the global semiconductor shortage, its second production cut in as many months.  
  • Global food prices were up 33% in August from a year earlier with vegetable oil, grains and meat leading the rise. 

Domestic Markets

  • The U.S. reported 143,895 new COVID-19 infections and 1,823 virus fatalities Tuesday. 
  • A staggering 1 in 500 Americans has died from COVID-19. 
  • The U.S. Army will require active-duty soldiers to be vaccinated against COVID-19 by Dec. 15
  • The U.S. will require most federal employees to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 by Nov. 22 as the White House drafts legislation requiring large employers to have their workers vaccinated or undergo weekly testing. 
  • The U.S. spent roughly $5.7 billion treating unvaccinated people for COVID-19 in the last three months, new data shows, while vaccines are estimated to have prevented up to 140,000 virus deaths in the U.S. from December to May. 
  • Pfizer will seek regulatory approval of its COVID-19 vaccine for children aged 6 months to 5 years in November.
  • Hospitals in Boise and Twin Falls, Idaho, are set to begin rationing care due to a flood of COVID-19 patients. Alaska’s largest hospital, meanwhile, has already begun the emergency prioritization of care.
  • ICU bed availability in several southern states has reached a breaking point, hospitals warn, with 1 in 4 facilities reporting at least 95% capacity
  • South Carolina hospitals are requesting emergency delivery of temporary mortuary trailers, as morgues struggle against an overwhelming number of COVID-19 deaths in the state. 
  • New York’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate for healthcare workers was temporarily blocked by a U.S. federal judge Tuesday due to the lack of protective exemptions. Roughly 18% of New York City students were absent the first week of classes due to fears of spreading COVID-19. 
  • New Jersey COVID-19 hospitalizations remained above 1,100 patients for the seventh straight day, as state officials began prepping three vaccination mega sites to begin rolling out booster shots. 
  • Florida reported 11,300 new COVID-19 cases and three virus fatalities Tuesday, while hospitalizations fell to 10,727 patients. 
  • A federal judge in Iowa blocked the state from enforcing a ban on mask mandates at public schools, citing an increase in pediatric cases of COVID-19 across the state. 
  • California reported a 27% decline in weekly COVID-19 cases over the last two weeks, averaging roughly 9,800 cases per day as of Friday. 
  • Hawaii’s seven-day average for new COVID-19 cases dropped to 566, a 37% decline from two weeks ago. 
  • Nearly 6,000 Texans have died from COVID-19 over the past month. 
  • Colorado will begin administering COVID-19 booster shots as early as next week.
  • Unvaccinated employees of media company Fox Corp. will be required to undergo daily COVID-19 testing, the company said. 
  • Several Broadway shows resumed performances Tuesday for the first time in the pandemic. 
  • U.S. median household income dropped 2.9% in 2020 to $67,500, while the nation’s poverty rate rose from 10.5% to 11.4%, its first increase in five years. Lower-wage earners who’ve seen wage gains on paper have made far less in reality due to rising inflation
  • Boeing revised its long-term demand forecast for the next 20 years, expecting to deliver 43,610 commercial jets worth $7.2 trillion, up from 43,110 projected last year. 
  • New data shows just how disruptive this summer’s rebound in air travel was, with Southwest reporting one-third of all flights arriving late and Spirit Airlines canceling nearly 6% of takeoffs. 
  • Apple unveiled a spate of new devices and technology yesterday, including an upgraded iPhone, Apple Watch and iPad. 
Apple's Incredible 21st Century Growth

International Markets

  • The World Health Organization reported 4 million new COVID-19 cases globally last week, down 10% from recent weeks, the first drop in over two months. 
  • New data from the U.K. shows that just 1% of COVID-19 deaths in the first half of 2021 were among fully vaccinated people, as the country announced plans to begin offering COVID-19 booster shots ahead of an expected winter virus surge. Officials estimate vaccines have so far saved 112,000 lives and prevented 24 million cases of the disease. 
  • Greece is banning all unvaccinated people from indoor public spaces unless they show proof of a negative COVID-19 test. 
  • Italy will begin offering COVID-19 booster shots to its 3 million citizens next week, while the country mulls making vaccinations compulsory. 
  • The Netherlands will end social distancing guidelines for the first time since the start of the pandemic while also expanding the use of COVID-19 vaccine certificates for cinemas, theaters and catering businesses. 
  • Mexico’s deputy health minister said COVID-19 infection rates are declining in all 32 states but urged citizens to get vaccinated with 41% of general hospital beds in the country occupied by virus patients, 95% of whom are unvaccinated.  
  • Over 50% of Japan’s population has been fully vaccinated against COVID-19, with numbers expected to climb above 60% by the end of the month, surpassing that of the U.S. 
  • Singapore has begun administering COVID-19 booster shots
  • COVID-19 cases in Sydney, Australia, rose at their slowest pace in nearly two weeks Tuesday, with 1,127 new infections reported in the New South Wales state. 
  • New COVID-19 infections in New Zealand dropped to 15 Tuesday, down from 33 Monday. 
  • Just 16% of the Philippines’ population is vaccinated against COVID-19, one of the lowest rates in Asia. 
  • Israel reported more than 10,000 new COVID-19 cases Monday, a disappointing rise for a country with one of the best vaccination rates in the world. 
  • HIV-positive people have been shown to harbor COVID-19 for longer, a growing issue in South Africa where prolonged infections allow a greater chance for the virus to mutate. 
Corona Weakens Efforts against HIV & Tuberculosis
  • A new study from India suggests COVID-19 antibodies significantly drop four months after a person receives their first shot, lining up with British data suggesting vaccine protection begins waning after six months.
  • Swiss pharmaceutical company Roche expects COVID-19 to evolve into a seasonal endemic with roughly 200 million to 500 million new infections every year. 
  • Air passenger traffic in China dropped 51.5% in August compared to a year ago amid a resurgence of several COVID-19 outbreaks. 
  • Ireland-based budget airline Ryanair announced plans to hire 5,000 more people over the next five years as the pandemic eases. 
  • Chinese retail sales rose just 2.5% in August from a year earlier, down sharply from the 8.5% year-over-year growth in July as several recent financial indicators pointed to a slowdown in the world’s second-largest economy. 
  • The U.K.’s jobless rate dropped to 4.6% in the second quarter, while employers added 241,000 new jobs in August, a record, as the total number of employees on company payrolls rose above the country’s pre-pandemic levels. 
  • A new survey of roughly 45,000 employers across 43 countries showed that 69% of employers are having a hard time finding workers to fill empty roles, the highest level in 15 years. 

At M. Holland

  • Plastics Reflections Web Series: Supply Chain Constraints & Forecast— Experts from BPI, LyondellBasell and MTS Logistics joined M. Holland to discuss current supply chain challenges impacting the global plastics industry. Click here to read key insights shared during the broadcast and access the recording.
  • 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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