COVID-19 Bulletin: September 16

September 16, 2021 • Posted in Daily Bulletin

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  • Roughly 30% of U.S. Gulf Coast crude production remains offline more than two weeks after Hurricane Ida’s landfall. 
  • Oil prices rose more than 3% Wednesday following a larger-than-expected drawdown of 6 million barrels of U.S. crude inventories, with Brent topping $75 for the first time in more than six weeks. 
  • Crude futures were lower in mid-day trading, with WTI down 0.3% at $72.42/bbl and Brent down 0.1% at $75.38/bbl. Natural gas was 3.0% lower at $5.30/MMBtu. 
  • Chevron’s CEO said we’re entering a period of high energy prices, while Citigroup projected there could be a temporary boost of as much as 2 million bpd in diesel demand as high U.S. gas prices force consumers to switch to oil heading into the colder season. 
  • Propane prices in Mont Belvieu, Texas, the U.S.’s main trading hub, have risen by nearly 60% this year with gas supplies at their lowest seasonal levels in roughly six years. 
  • U.K. power prices surged 19% Wednesday after a fire broke out at a key electricity converter station, halting the nation’s crucial power imports from France. 
  • A major British fertilizer-maker has been forced to shut down production at two plants, the latest energy-intensive manufacturer to do so amid skyrocketing gas and power prices in the nation. 
  • France will issue $118 in direct payments to 5.8 million households to help offset the country’s rising energy bills. 
  • POET, the U.S.’s largest biofuel producer, announced an ambitious plan to achieve net-zero carbon emissions at its processing plants by 2050. 
  • Construction could begin on the U.S.’s first major offshore wind farm off Massachusetts later this year following a $2.3 billion investment in the project’s developer, Vineyard Wind. 
  • Wind turbine technicians and solar installers are projected to be among the fastest growing professions over the next decade, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. 
  • Our most recent list of force majeure and allocation announcements from suppliers is here.  

Supply Chain

  • A pair of wildfires in California’s Sequoia National Forest ballooned to 7,039 acres Wednesday with no containment, threatening the world’s largest trees and prompting regional evacuations. Supply chain disruptions, including a lack of rental cars to transport crews and truck drivers to transport supplies, are hampering firefighters as they battle a record wildfire season.  
  • Spot container shipping rates from Asia to the U.S. West Coast were five times higher last week than the same time last year, and 14 times higher than in 2019, the Freightos Baltic Index shows. 
  • MSC is moving two trans-Atlantic container vessels to trans-Pacific routes to meet high demand for Asia services, the company said. 
  • A UPS executive predicted current supply chain disruptions will persist well into 2022, a result of low COVID-19 vaccination rates in key developing countries that produce raw materials and components. 
  • Amazon is raising its average starting minimum wage to $18 an hour in its quest to attract 125,000 additional logistics workers in advance of the holiday season. 
  • High transportation costs have become a vexing challenge for many companies, with Jo-Ann Stores reporting that ocean shipping costs exceed the raw material costs of some products.  
  • The Federal Maritime Commission will address allegedly excessive detention and demurrage fees exacerbating disruption in ocean shipping, with plans to issue a policy statement that will clarify how shippers, truckers and others can obtain repayment.  
  • DHL is extending a contract for Atlas Air to fly 20 freighter jets amid continued high levels of e-commerce activity. 
  • Canadian National dropped out of a months-long battle to acquire U.S. railroad Kansas City Southern, ceding its bid to a $27 billion deal from Canadian Pacific, which, if completed, will create the first freight rail network linking Canada, the U.S. and Mexico.  
  • A Taiwanese hardware-maker followed semiconductor-maker TSMC by chartering its own container ship to mitigate sky-high freight costs. 
  • China-based SGMW, one of GM’s joint ventures, will begin developing its own auto semiconductors
  • U.S. supermarkets are sometimes receiving as little as 40% of what they order compared to pre-pandemic levels of more than 90%, executives say. 
  • MSC joined rival shipping giants Maersk and CMA CGM in pledging to achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. 

Domestic Markets

  • The U.S. reported 166,284 new COVID-19 infections and 2,678 virus fatalities Wednesday. 
  • After surging in August, U.S. COVID-19 vaccination rates are again declining, led primarily by central and southern states. 
  • The latest weekly count of new COVID-19 infections among American children reached 243,373, a 240% increase since July. 
  • Los Angeles County will require proof of a COVID-19 vaccine for indoor access to restaurants, bars, wineries, breweries, nightclubs and lounges. 
  • California is the only state without a “high” COVID-19 transmission risk level, according to the CDC. 
  • Led by COVID-19, Alabama saw more deaths among residents last year than any other year in history. The news aligns with data showing the virus death rate in rural areas is more than twice that of urban ones.
  • Mississippi has the highest COVID-19 fatality rate in the nation at 306 per 100,000 people
  • West Virginia reported 8,860 COVID-19 infections last week, a record, while virus hospitalizations grew to 852 Monday, also a record. 
  • Residents and staff of Florida nursing homes accounted for 21% of all nursing home COVID-19 fatalities between July and August, the largest share in the country.  
  • A healthcare region spanning 20 counties in southern Illinois has completely run out of ICU beds, officials report. 
  • Washington state currently has 1,592 patients hospitalized with COVID-19, the most since the start of the pandemic. 
  • Hospitals in Idaho and other western states with hospitals overwhelmed by COVID-19 patients are struggling to find beds elsewhere as neighboring states tighten acceptance of non-resident patients.  
  • Yesterday, daily COVID-19 infections in Alaska hit a record high 1,068, one day after the state’s largest hospital announced crisis protocols and began rationing care.  
  • COVID-19 infections, hospitalizations and deaths among fully vaccinated Pennsylvanians are just a fraction of those among unvaccinated peers, new data shows.  
  • Hospitals in Washington, D.C. are seeing record numbers of child patients with COVID-19. 
  • New York EMTs will now be allowed to administer COVID-19 vaccines under a new order from the state’s governor. 
  • Southwest Airlines is giving employees 16 hours extra pay with proof of vaccination and denying special quarantine pay for unvaccinated workers who contract COVID-19.  
  • The FDA emphasized that the current two-dose COVID-19 vaccine regimen provides enough protection against severe disease and death, as Pfizer suggested a third shot of its vaccine would restore waning efficacy to 95%. The CDC will meet next week to solidify plans for the nation’s booster dose rollout. 
  • Side effects from a third COVID-19 vaccine could be like those of a person’s second dose, Pfizer advised. 
  • The U.S. announced that it will require all new immigrants to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 starting Oct. 1. 
  • The White House is creating a new international contact tracing system for when international travel restrictions are lifted. 
  • All Federal Reserve regional banks will require employees to be vaccinated against COVID-19. 
  • After falling in July, retail sales rebounded 0.7% in August, despite supply chain disruptions and a decline in automotive sales. 
  • First-time unemployment claims rose by 20,000 last week to 332,000 as rising COVID-19 infections began to impact hiring. 
  • U.S. manufacturing output slowed in August, increasing just 0.2% compared to a 1.6% surge in July, caused by disruptions from Hurricane Ida and materials and labor shortages stemming from the pandemic. 
  • U.S. import prices dropped 0.3% in August after an increase of 0.4% in July, their first decline in 10 months amid a recent drop in the cost of petroleum products. 
  • A growing number of New York City tenants are seeing rent increases up to 70% as discounts offered during the height of the pandemic begin to expire. 
  • U.S. hotels are expected to take a $59 billion revenue hit this year due to the drop in business travel amid resurgent COVID-19 infections. 
  • The number of African American-owned businesses in the U.S. has surged 38% to nearly 1.5 million since February of last year, while the number of Hispanic-owned businesses rose by 15% for the same period. 
  • New data suggests last year’s first two rounds of federal pandemic relief aid kept some 11.7 million Americans from falling below the poverty line. 
  • Walmart is set to begin testing its new autonomous vehicle service in Miami, Austin and Washington, D.C., using Ford vehicles operated by Argo AI’s self-driving system. 
  • Rivian, an electric vehicle-maker backed by Amazon and Ford, has received regulatory approval for all 50 states, clearing the way for the much-hyped company to begin making its first deliveries.  
  • Pepsi pledged to cut virgin plastic use-per-serving by half across all brands by 2030, with 50% of all plastic packaging to be recycled. 

International Markets

  • COVID-19 cases are up 20% in the Western Hemisphere the past week, with a third of the increase coming from the U.S., Mexico and Canada.  
  • A nightly curfew in Sydney, Australia, ended Wednesday, as 80% of eligible people in the New South Wales state have now received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. 
  • New Zealand reopened its border for travelers looking to return home as the country’s total active COVID-19 infections dropped to 14 Wednesday. 
  • New data suggests the Tokyo Olympics did not worsen Japan’s COVID-19 outbreak, with the scale and speed of infections in the nation similar to other parts of the world that were hit by the Delta variant. 
  • France’s 3 million healthcare workers will be required to get COVID-19 vaccinations or face firing. 
  • The EU pledged to donate an additional 200 million COVID-19 vaccine doses to middle- and low-income countries by the middle of next year. 
  • A COVID-19 outbreak in China’s Fujian province has prompted many other cities to issue travel warnings ahead of the upcoming holidays. The country claims to have fully vaccinated more than 1 billion people against COVID-19. 
  • U.K. small businesses have claimed more than $1.4 billion to date in insurance payouts related to the pandemic. 
  • Australian researchers claim to have developed a new antiviral coating technology that can be sprayed on face masks and kills the COVID-19 virus upon exposure. 
  • China’s factory output rose 5.3% in August, its slowest pace since July of last year, while consumer spending rose just 2.5%. The nation’s property market is also facing significant setbacks due to increased government scrutiny and disrupted investment. 
Chinese Housing Market: The Big Slowdown
  • A new study froThe U.K.’s rate of inflation increased 1.2% in August from July, the sharpest month-over-month increase since 1997.  
  • The Central Bank of Brazil will require banks to incorporate climate change-related risks into stress tests beginning next July. 
  • India has approved a $3.5 billion incentive scheme for its auto market, hoping to boost electric and hydrogen fuel-powered cars and drone manufacturing over the next five years. 
  • Incineration plays a prominent role in China’s just published five-year plan to cut plastic pollution, calling for increasing daily incineration rates from 580,000 tonnes last year to 800,000 tonnes by 2025.  

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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