COVID-19 Bulletin: February 25

February 25, 2021 • Posted in COVID-19

Hello,

More news relevant to the plastics industry:

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Winter Storm Uri

  • Exelon expects up to a $710 million hit to first-quarter income after three of its Texas power plants were forced to shut down after last week’s cold.
  • Trade groups representing public power and natural gas companies are asking the White House to declare a natural gas emergency and cap the price of natural gas after last week’s weather events.
  • Last week’s cold snap exposed the vulnerabilities of aging water systems throughout the South.
  • In 10 states, the seven-day average of new COVID-19 vaccine doses is lower than it was two weeks earlier, suggesting significant disruption in the U.S. rollout caused by last week’s winter storm.
  • Winter Storm Uri disrupted 15% of the global olefins market
  • U.S. ethanol output fell 28% last week, the biggest weekly drop on record.
  • A full restart of Shell’s Deer Park refinery in Texas could take until April after the site sustained lasting damage from the cold spell.
  • Our most recent list of force majeure and allocation announcements from suppliers is here.

Supply

  • Oil prices jumped to the highest level in more than a year, with the WTI reaching $63.30/bbl and Brent topping at $67.23/bbl.
  • Energy prices were lower in early trading today, with the WTI down slightly at $63.20/bbl and Brent down 0.4% at $66.75/bbl. Natural gas was down 0.4% at $2.78/MMBtu.
  • Plans to add Texas supplies to the Brent pricing calculation for crude is causing uncertainty for oil traders and may require rewriting oil contracts that have underpinned oil markets for decades.
  • Mexico’s deficit is expected to increase to 4.1% of GDP this year after ongoing support for state-owned oil company Pemex drives up debt, Moody’s says.
  • Exxon is selling nearly $1 billion of its interests in U.K. and North Sea production assets to free up cash.
  • OPEC is set to meet next Wednesday to discuss raising output as much as a half a million barrels per day starting in April.
  • Spanish utility Iberdrola will invest $182 billion to triple its renewable capacity by 2030.
  • Braskem S.A. will spend $61 million to expand its green ethylene capacity in Brazil by nearly a third.
  • After pandemic delays, construction on Shell’s 1.6 million-ton-per-year polyethylene project in Beaver County, Pennsylvania, is 70% complete and expected to start up in 2022.

Supply Chain

  • The White House ordered a 100-day review of supply chains for semiconductors and large-capacity batteries among other products, part of an effort to increase domestic production and bolster companies against future disruptions like at the start of the pandemic. At an investment conference yesterday, GM said the chip shortage impacting its business is easing.
  • Container volumes fell only 1.2% in 2020 despite massive slowdowns during the early months of the pandemic.
  • Congestion at the Port of Oakland led to an 11.9% year-over-year drop in container volumes in January.
  • We expect continuing logistics disruption in the U.S. from severe winter conditions that blanketed much of the country last week.
  • Logistics conditions remain strained, with trucking demand exceeding availability and continued congestion at ports due in part to operating challenges related to the pandemic. Clients are advised to provide expanded lead times on orders to help ensure delivery dates. 

Markets

  • There were 74,502 new COVID-19 cases in the U.S. yesterday and 3,230 deaths.
  • Nearly 66.5 million vaccine doses have been administered in the U.S., with over 20.6 million people fully vaccinated.
Vaccine Hesitancy Persists
  • Two teams of researchers have found worrying signs that a variant of COVID-19 discovered in New York may weaken the effectiveness of vaccines.
  • Johnson & Johnson’s COVID-19 vaccine was found by FDA regulators to be 66.1% effective, paving the way for emergency-use authorization in the U.S. as early as this weekend. 
  • Moderna is set to begin human testing for a new COVID-19 vaccine tailored to the South African variant of the virus.
  • Pfizer/BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccine was “overwhelmingly effective” in a study that tracked 1.2 million people who received the shot in Israel, including all age groups.
  • The White House is sending 25 million masks to community health centers and food pantries nationwide, which will be free to the public.
  • Heavy breathing while exercising at gyms increased the transmission of COVID-19 despite social distancing protocols, the CDC says.
  • First-time jobless claims fell more than expected to 730,000 last week.
  • The Bureau of Labor Statistics dropped its long-term jobs growth forecast from 3.7% per year to 2.9% for the next decade, projecting the greatest job growth will be in the medical, health-science and technology fields, while the biggest declines will be for restaurant, hotel and transportation workers.
  • The Federal Reserve Chairman further emphasized on Wednesday that the central bank will not raise interest rates until inflation has exceeded 2%, which could take three years or more.
  • National testing program data show widespread performance declines among U.S. students at the start of this academic year, particularly in math.
  • U.S. retail sales are expected to rise as much as 8.2% this year as the economy reopens and pent-up consumer demand is unleashed, according to the National Retail Federation. 
  • After posting a 28.1% increase in same-store sales in the fourth quarter, home improvement retailer Lowe’s expects demand to drop in 2021.
  • Visa and Mastercard will soon raise fees for some types of credit-card purchases, a potentially costly hit to restauranters, retailers and other merchants already facing higher swipe fees.
  • Foxconn, the world’s biggest electronics manufacturer that assembles iPhones, will soon begin assembling cars for electric-vehicle startup Fisker, the company’s latest step into the automotive sector.
  • Mortgage rates hit 2.81% last week, their highest level since November, putting a damper on home purchase and refinance applications just as new home sales reached a peak in January.
  • The FAA has ordered emergency inspections of all Boeing 777 jets with Pratt & Whitney engines before they can resume flight, a result of Monday’s incident in Denver that dropped broken aircraft debris over a residential neighborhood.
  • Among the surprising top-selling toys during the pandemic has been the 61-year-old Barbie doll after Mattel revamped the iconic toy to reflect racial equality and inclusion.
  • Nostalgic Airstream RVs have experienced a resurgence in popularity, with dealer sales up 22% in 2020 and the company sitting on a one-year backlog.
  • Antimicrobial products are the rage: the latest is patented antimicrobial paint that Sherwin-Williams claims will kill 99% of certain bacteria within two hours of surface contact.

International

  • An uptick in COVID-19 in some areas of France is prompting new local restrictions as the nation works to avoid another full national lockdown.
  • COVID-19 infections are picking up in India, with 13,742 cases added yesterday as the government looks to expand its vaccination program.
  • The Czech Republic will begin tightening measures to prevent a “catastrophe” due to rising coronavirus cases and strained hospital capacity.  
  • Swedish lawmakers are considering new lockdowns on an uptick in COVID-19 cases.
  • To date, more than 218 million vaccine doses have been administered globally across 99 countries.
  • Several Asian nations kicked off their COVID-19 vaccine drives this week, including Australia, Hong Kong, Japan and New Zealand.
  • Up to 75% of the European Union’s population could get vaccinated against COVID-19 by the end of August, a faster-than-expected schedule as the supply of shots ramps up. The bloc’s leaders are working on getting certificates of vaccination for EU citizens who seek to travel. 
  • Latin America is increasingly relying on COVID-19 vaccines from China and Russia, low-cost alternatives to their Western counterparts.
  • The lack of access to COVID-19 vaccines in low- and middle-income countries threatens to increase the economic gap between rich and poor nations.
  • Optimism increased among European consumers and businesses in February, with a key sentiment index rising to its highest level in a year
  • Government borrowing among developed nations jumped 60% last year to nearly twice the debt load incurred during the Great Recession, with much of the recent debt in riskier short-term funding.
  • Booking Holdings, the world’s largest online travel agency, reported a 65% drop in gross travel bookings in the fourth quarter.

Our Operations

  • Last week’s Plastics Reflections webinar on 2021 Drivers and Trends for the North American Plastics Market can be viewed here.
  • Our 3D Printing business unit has launched a new e-commerce site. Access the new site here.
  • Market Expertise: M. Holland offers a host of resources to clients, prospects and suppliers across nine strategic markets. To arrange a videoconference or meeting with any of our Market Managers, please visit our website.  

Thank you,

M. Holland Company

We will provide further COVID-19 bulletins as circumstances dictate. For all COVID-19 updates and notices, please refer to the M. Holland website.

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