COVID-19 Bulletin: September 17

September 17, 2021 • Posted in Daily Bulletin

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  • Oil prices were flat Thursday after hitting multi-week highs a day earlier. Crude futures were lower in morning trading today, with WTI down 1.1% at $71.76/bbl and Brent down 0.9% at $75.02/bbl. Natural gas was down 2.3% at $5.21/MMBtu. Despite the early drop, prices remain headed for their fourth straight week of gains
  • The global LNG price rally is expected to continue through this winter when demand in the Northern Hemisphere peaks, as traders in Asia already report paying record prices for this time of year. 
  • Royal Dutch Shell announced plans to build a new biofuels facility in the Netherlands to help reach its goal of achieving net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.
  • Twenty of China’s 30 provinces and regions failed to meet energy consumption targets in the first half of the year, a slow start toward the nation’s goal of reducing energy intensity more than 65% by 2030. 
  • U.S. offshore wind development has grown 24% since the start of the pandemic, with 35,324 megawatts now in various states of construction throughout the country. 
  • Commodities trader Cargill is launching a carbon farming program in 2022 that will pay farmers for production practices that lower emissions and capture greater amounts of carbon in soil. 
  • Our most recent list of force majeure and allocation announcements from suppliers is here.  

Supply Chain

  • California’s Dixie Fire is now 86% contained after burning more than 960,000 acres.  
  • Congestion at West Coast ports intensified, with a queue of 65 container ships waiting outside the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, a record high, as their loaded imports fell 5.9% year over year in August due to heavy congestion. Empty containers handled at the ports jumped 17% to 367,413 TEUs, a monthly record. 
  • Manufacturing inventories in August rose at the fastest pace in nearly three years, fueled in part by increased work-in-process inventories due to materials and components shortages.  
  • Lowe’s and other U.S. retailers are placing larger orders earlier to mitigate supply chain challenges ahead of the holiday season. Many companies are logging double-digit percentage increases in inventory, a preemptive bid to avoid shipping backlogs and a strong show of confidence in consumer demand. 
  • Maersk raised its 2021 outlook amid increased freight rates, now expecting full-year earnings to land between $22 billion and $23 billion, up from a previous estimate of $18 billion to $19.5 billion. The company also acquired Huub, a cloud-based logistics startup from Portugal, to further improve its end-to-end supply chain services
  • Taiwanese carrier TS Lines has added an additional five container ships to its orderbook from Chinese shipyards, bringing total new orders to 20 ships worth over $1 billion.
  • Florida cargo operator Western Global Airlines has asked for regulatory approval to expand its fleet to capitalize on the growing airfreight market. 
  • China will extend tariff exemptions to 81 products imported from the U.S. for an additional seven months as part of a mutual agreement to wind down the trading war between the two countries. 
  • Trucking executives expect U.S. freight rates to rise more than 5% next year, as labor and trailer shortages and supply chain congestion persist. 
  • After the domestic steel industry idled 7 million pounds of capacity during the pandemic, U.S. Steel plans to build a new sheet-steel mill in a bet that U.S. manufacturing activity and steel prices, up fourfold since mid-2020, will remain elevated for an extended period.
  • GM is extending suspensions at its North American crossover assembly plants due to the global semiconductor shortage. 
  • Disruptions are growing for Southeast Asian producers of palm oil, coffee and tin due to COVID-19 lockdowns, with prices for the commodities rising to multiyear highs in recent months. 
  • Kellogg will invest roughly $45 million into revamping its American supply chain over the next three years, hoping the move will help offset cost inflation as it aims to meet surging consumer demand for cereals. 
  • COVID-19 shutdowns in Vietnam are forcing factories transplanted from China in recent years to move back. Japanese fashion retailer Uniqlo will delay clothing releases this year due to continued pandemic lockdowns at Vietnamese garment factories. 

Domestic Markets

  • The U.S. reported 157,957 new COVID-19 infections and 3,393 virus fatalities Thursday. 
  • In the next few days, the U.S. death toll from COVID-19 is expected to surpass that of the last comparable pandemic, the 1918 influenza that killed an estimated 675,000 Americans. 
  • The White House supported offering third booster doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine ahead of a planned FDA committee vote today to approve the measure. 
  • A growing number of U.S. parents are enrolling their children in COVID-19 vaccine trials, as pediatric cases of the virus continue to rise throughout the country. 
  • A new study suggests Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine could lose 36% of its efficacy after 12 months, while other research suggests people who have both been infected and received vaccinations against COVID-19 may have long-lasting, “superhuman” immunity
  • Florida has surpassed 50,000 COVID-19 deaths since the pandemic began, with more than a quarter occurring this summer. The state will resume reporting county-by-county virus fatalities after abruptly halting release of the data more than three months ago. 
  • With the second-lowest COVID-19 vaccination rate in the country, Idaho has extended its health care rationing across the entire state due to a surge in COVID-19 hospitalizations, with an additional 1,315 new infections reported Wednesday. 
  • Iowa added 11,723 new COVID-19 cases over the past seven days, the most since January, along with 64 virus fatalities. 
  • In the last several weeks, over one-third of negative flu tests in Hawaii have turned out to be positive for COVID-19 instead, as the state reported an additional 493 virus cases Wednesday. 
  • Virginia reported 4,066 new COVID-19 cases Wednesday, with the number of pediatric hospitalizations surging to 252, the most since the start of the pandemic and a fivefold increase from the beginning of July. 
  • The seven-day average for new COVID-19 cases in New Jersey rose by nearly 17% over the last week and 30% over the last month, as the state reported 2,442 new infections and 26 deaths Thursday. 
  • The rate of COVID-19 infections in Maine is rising at the fastest pace in the U.S., with a near doubling in the seven-day average from two weeks ago. 
  • Tennessee now has the most COVID-19 cases per capita in the U.S., averaging roughly 8,300 new cases per day over the past week. 
  • Alaska reported 1,095 new COVID-19 cases Wednesday, its highest daily tally of the pandemic, as several of the state’s hospitals approach full capacity. 
  • Roughly 94% of Pennsylvania’s COVID-19 cases are among unvaccinated people. 
  • COVID-19 cases in Los Angeles County have dropped roughly 50% the past month, though the CDC on Wednesday downgraded California to its worst tier for its categories of virus transmission. 
  • A CDC study found that 35% of COVID-19 survivors experienced “long COVID,” suffering at least one lingering symptom for two months or longer, with higher rates among people over age 40, women, people with preexisting health conditions and Black respondents.
  • Most Americans support requiring teachers to get vaccinated against COVID-19, while educators increasingly back vaccine mandates for students over age 12. 
  • Massachusetts officials are considering a COVID-19 proof-of-vaccine program like those imposed in several large cities. The state reported 2,716 new positive infections and 15 virus deaths Wednesday. 
  • Arizona became the first state to sue the White House over its recent COVID-19 vaccine mandate for businesses with 100 employees or more. 
  • The U.S. Treasury Department says it has disbursed around $700 billion of its $1 trillion in COVID-19 relief funds. 
  • The Federal Emergency Management Agency has agreed to reimburse roughly $1 billion to New York City’s public hospital system for excessive costs borne from treating COVID-19 patients. 
  • The Maryland Zoo is one of 70 U.S. facilities vaccinating wild animals against COVID-19. 
  • Around 90% of United Airlines employees have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19 ahead of a Sept. 27 cutoff date. The airline’s CEO said mandates will not come into play for passengers. 
  • Economists predict the Federal Reserve will scale back monthly asset purchases by the end of the year while holding interest rates near zero through 2022 before delivering two quarter-point increases. 
  • The U.S. is seeing significant inflationary gaps in different parts of the country, with urban rates doubling while others remain at pre-pandemic levels.
  • A growing number of U.S. retailers are adding installment payment options at checkout, a move to boost sales by allowing customers to pay over time for items without using a credit card. 
  • GM further extended the shutdown of a Michigan assembly plant to at least Oct. 15 following the expanded recall of its Chevrolet Bolt electric vehicle, while warning remaining Bolt owners to park their cars at least 50 feet away from other vehicles over concerns of battery fires.
  • With over 150,000 preorders on the books, Ford is investing $250 million to double production capacity for its new electric F-150 Lightning model to 80,000 units annually. 
  • SK Innovation will split its auto battery unit into a separate company, paving the way for increased investment to help finance its high-cost production capacity expansion. 
  • The lack of standardized reporting for climate disclosures often makes them inconsistent and incomplete, a challenge as lawmakers increasingly discuss requiring emissions data in regular company reports.   

International Markets

  • Japan’s top COVID-19 adviser is warning against easing pandemic restrictions too quickly, saying they should only be lifted in November once the nation’s state of emergency lifts. The country’s tight border controls pushed the number of foreign visitors in August down 99% compared to the same time in 2019. 
  • Hong Kong will not shift its zero-tolerance COVID-19 strategy until at least 80%-90% of the population is vaccinated, officials said. 
  • Virgin Australia will require its pilots, flight attendants and airport staff to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 by Nov. 15. 
  • More than 90% of Mexico City adults have received at least one COVID-19 dose, with first dose rates above 70% in 19 of the nation’s 32 states.  
  • Roughly 3,000 healthcare workers in France have been suspended for not getting vaccinated against COVID-19. 
  • Sweden announced plans to begin vaccinating children as young as age 12 against COVID-19 this fall. 
  • Cambodia began vaccinating children as young as age 6.  
  • Italy will become the first EU country to require all workers to have a COVID-19 health pass that proves they have either recovered from the virus, tested negative or received at least one dose of a vaccine.  
  • The U.K. began administering COVID-19 booster shots to health workers Thursday, with plans to fully roll out its campaign to adults over age 50 next week. 
  • Public healthcare workers in Africa are calling on the United Nations to accelerate deliveries of COVID-19 vaccines, as only 3.6% of the continent’s population has been fully vaccinated against the virus.
  • Researchers in Hong Kong have developed a new affordable COVID-19 antibody test that can accurately determine a person’s immunity from the virus within five minutes
  • Roughly 41% of British companies report struggling to recruit workers for open positions, up from 32% of companies in August.
  • Irish budget airline Ryanair raised its five-year passenger forecast Thursday, citing the delivery of an existing order from Boeing along with increased usage of older aircraft. 
  • Amazon is planning to more than double its Spanish payrolls to 25,000 workers by 2025, up from 12,000 last year. 
  • New data suggests the temporary decline in global emissions caused by the pandemic will not meaningfully help the world meet goals set forth in the 2015 Paris climate agreement. 

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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