COVID-19 Bulletin: December 16
December 16, 2021 • Posted in COVID-19
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- Oil prices remained mostly flat on Wednesday, balanced between signals of strong consumer demand and tightening U.S. economic policy. Futures were higher in late morning trading, with WTI up 2.1% at $72.39/bbl and Brent up 1.6% at $75.08/bbl. U.S. natural gas was 2.2% higher at $3.89/MMBtu.
- U.S. implied oil demand rose sharply last week, with the Energy Information Administration noting a larger-than-expected drop in crude inventories, an uptick in exports and a record 23.2 million bpd of product supplied by refineries.
- Global oil and gas supply is expected to surpass demand as soon as the first quarter of next year, according to many forecasts.
- Chinese refiners operated at full force in November, boosting monthly output by several percentage points in a bid to combat a national shortage of diesel.
- India’s imports of Middle Eastern oil surged to 3.07 million bpd in November, an 11-month high accounting for three-quarters of the country’s total oil imports.
- Spain extended a tax cut on electricity bills until next May to help consumers deal with high energy costs, while Bulgaria froze power prices yesterday.
- U.S. onshore gas flaring in the third quarter fell to its lowest level in nearly a decade, as producers heed calls for minimizing emissions.
- New York City’s council approved a measure requiring new buildings with fewer than seven stories to use power sources other than oil or natural gas — presumably electricity — for heating, water and cooking by the end of 2023. The ban would take effect on taller buildings by 2027, as the nation’s most populous city takes a lead on climate-focused energy policy.
- Five large energy firms, including Shell and Equinor, have applied to build carbon dioxide storage projects offshore Norway.
- Italian utility Edison will spend $3.4 billion to increase its wind and solar capacity to 5 GW by 2030, more than double current capacity.
- Production at GM’s Corvette plant in Bowling Green, Kentucky, is shut down this week due to damage from weekend tornados.
- Container imports at the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach fell 10.1% in November despite rising queues, with port officials pointing to a larger-than-normal influx of smaller ships that are less efficient to unload.
- Port of Oakland import volumes rose an annual 6.5% in November, the first increase in two months after ships bypassed the port earlier this year due to excessive delays in Los Angeles and Long Beach.
- The Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach held off on imposing new container dwell fees for a fifth straight week, as the cargo dwell time declined 47%.
- The ever-increasing size of container ships has contributed to U.S. supply chain logjams, analysts say.
- More than 145 bulk carriers are anchored off Indonesian coal ports as congestion grows over new quarantine restrictions.
- FedEx has completed a $72.2 million air cargo expansion project at Miami International Airport, boosting capacity and allowing more services to the Americas and Caribbean.
- The White House unveiled a plan that would quicken truck driver certifications and potentially revamp wages as part of a broader push to unclog supply chain bottlenecks.
- The U.K. will extend a grace period beyond Jan. 1 for imposing new checks on goods traded with Ireland, allowing more time to negotiate various post-Brexit measures with the EU.
- Toyota projects it will build a record 800,000 vehicles across the globe in January, as the automaker looks to make up for production losses from months of component shortages.
- Class 8 truck orders fell 41% in November to the lowest order total since 1995, as component shortages continue to hamper production.
- The car-carrier sector is projected to rebound with 9% growth in volumes next year as more automakers return to full production.
- Ryder System is adding 19 new distribution centers and bolstering its e-commerce operations with the $480 million acquisition of retail fulfillment and logistics provider Whiplash.
- Less-than-truckload carrier Estes Express Lines is looking to acquire drivers and equipment from Central Freight Lines, which recently shut down after 96 years of operation.
- Eastern Pacific Shipping plans to diversify its operations with the acquisition of Israel-based Golar’s LNG carrier fleet.
- European antitrust regulators are expected to veto Hyundai Heavy Industries’ proposed acquisition of rival Daewoo Shipbuilding & Marine Engineering.
- Production of palm oil, the world’s most-consumed edible oil, is at five-year lows in No. 2 grower Malaysia after the government shut borders and froze foreign hiring during the pandemic.
- Unusually warm temperatures have dented Greek olive oil production this year.
- U.S. farmers are warning of potentially higher food prices next year over surging costs for fertilizer, which have more than doubled the past year.
- Six leading marine insurers have joined the Poseidon Principles for Marine Insurance, an initiative linking underwritings with reduced carbon emissions from global shipping.
- The U.S. reported 141,205 new COVID-19 infections and 2,167 virus fatalities Wednesday.
- The COVID-19 Omicron variant could lead to a new wave of U.S. infections as soon as January, the CDC said.
- A booster dose of any of the three authorized COVID-19 vaccines in the U.S. likely restores most protection against the Omicron variant, new research suggests. The White House cited the data in indicating there is little need for drugmakers to develop a shot specifically tailored to Omicron.
- The CDC estimates roughly 13% of all current COVID-19 cases in New York and New Jersey are of the Omicron variant.
- Banner Health, Arizona’s largest employer, warned it may begin rationing hospital care amid a crush of COVID-19 patients.
- COVID-19 hospitalizations in Maine reached a record high Wednesday.
- Miami-Dade County, Florida’s most populous, reimposed COVID-19 reporting requirements for hospitals over concerns about the spread of the Omicron variant.
- Philadelphia officials are pleading with residents not to host other households at holiday gatherings over fears of contributing to a recent wave of COVID-19.
- Colorado passed 10,000 COVID-19 deaths Tuesday, the ninth-lowest rate of virus fatalities in the nation.
- The Cleveland Clinic installed a mobile morgue at its hospital in Akron, Ohio, to deal with an overflow of COVID-19 fatalities.
- California exempted San Francisco from its statewide indoor mask mandate due to the city’s high COVID-19 vaccination rate of 86%.
- A federal court of appeals for Texas, Louisiana and Mississippi reinstated the White House’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate for healthcare workers in 26 states.
- Only 1 in 6 Americans have been fully vaccinated and boosted against COVID-19, new data shows. Vaccines may have prevented about 1.1 million deaths and 10.3 million hospitalizations.
- U.S. healthcare spending rose to $4.1 trillion last year, a 9.7% increase and the fastest pace since 2002.
- Nearly 70% of people who were hospitalized with COVID-19 and suffered lingering symptoms showed little improvement a year later.
- Apple indefinitely pushed back its corporate return-to-office date and will temporarily shutter three stores over rising COVID-19 infections.
- Following Cornell, Princeton University and New York University shuttered most operations yesterday due to rising COVID-19 cases among students.
- Los Angeles public schools, the nation’s second largest district, will delay a COVID-19 vaccine mandate for students as young as age 12 until next fall.
- The U.S. Navy announced plans to begin removing unvaccinated personnel from service, just days after the Air Force discharged 27 members over failing to meet a mandate.
- Only 36% of surveyed U.S. workers said their employers require COVID-19 vaccinations.
- Twitter will start issuing penalties to users making false claims that vaccinated people who are not infected can spread COVID-19.
- The effectiveness of Pfizer’s and Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccines in people over age 65 waned about four months after a second dose, according to new research.
- The White House has scaled back in-person Christmas parties this year over the national rise in COVID-19 cases.
- First-time jobless claims rose modestly last week to 206,000 from a 52-year low the previous week.
- In a much-anticipated announcement, the Federal Reserve said it would end its pandemic-era bond purchases in March and begin raising interest rates as unemployment remains low and inflation has risen. Officials signaled three interest rate hikes next year.
- The White House is rolling out $15 billion in recently approved infrastructure dollars to replace the nation’s lead water pipes by the end of the decade.
- The U.K. reported 78,610 new COVID-19 cases Wednesday, a record fueled by the highly transmissible Omicron variant, which now tallies more than 10,000 current infections and 60% of cases in London. Brits will be required to show proof of vaccination to enter most large indoor venues.
- The COVID-19 Omicron variant is expected to be the dominant strain across Europe by mid-January. New research from Hong Kong suggests the strain may spread 70 times faster but bring significantly weaker symptoms than Delta.
- France, amid its worst COVID-19 wave of the pandemic, mandated COVID-19 boosters for people over age 65.
- Germany plans to spend an additional $2.5 billion to procure more COVID-19 vaccines after officials said the nation’s current supply is not enough to ward off another wave.
- Canadian officials are strongly recommending against international travel amid rising global COVID-19 cases. The nation’s largest bank also told most employees to continue working remotely. A hospital system in Alberta has placed more than 1,600 workers on unpaid leave over failure to get vaccinated.
- South Africa reported 26,976 new COVID-19 infections in the past 24 hours, a record.
- Amid record virus statistics, South Korea reintroduced strict pandemic lockdowns, including curfews on businesses and a four-person limit on private gatherings.
- Greece will require a negative COVID-19 test within 48 hours of touchdown for air travelers from the U.K. and Denmark.
- Australia ended a nearly two-year travel ban on incoming skilled migrants and foreign students due to pressing needs of the nation’s economy.
- EU regulators recommend a booster dose of Johnson & Johnson’s COVID-19 vaccine just two months after the first dose.
- France’s Sanofi and the U.K.’s GlaxoSmithKline pushed back the release of data for their jointly developed COVID-19 booster dose until the first quarter of next year.
- Japan approved Moderna’s COVID-19 booster dose, its second approved booster.
- Moderna will build a new vaccine manufacturing plant in Australia’s Victoria state capable of producing up to 100 million shots per year when it goes live in 2024.
- The U.K.’s inflation rate surged to 5.1% in November, the fastest in a decade, prompting the nation’s central bank to make a surprise interest rate hike this morning for the first time in the pandemic.
- Activity in most parts of the eurozone’s services sector slowed in early December, while activity in Germany declined for the first time in eight months.
- Chinese industrial activity rose 3.8% in November from a year ago, one of the only bright spots in recent economic data signaling slowdowns in the national economy’s expansion.
- Investment spending in a collection of the world’s richest countries, including the U.S., fell a combined 0.8% from the second to the third quarter, new data suggests.
- Fitch Ratings lowered forecasts for global economic growth in 2021 by 0.3 percentage points to 5.7%, citing the impacts of rising inflation.
- Australia’s Qantas Airways chose Airbus over Boeing as the preferred supplier to replace its domestic fleet starting in 2023.
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