COVID-19 Bulletin: March 15

March 15, 2021 • Posted in COVID-19

Hello,

More news relevant to the plastics industry:

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Supply

  • Brent crude ended last week above $69 per barrel as tight supplies forced a global drain in inventories.
  • Crude was lower in mid-day trading today, with the WTI down 0.9% at $65.02/bbl and Brent 0.9% lower at $68.57/bbl. Natural gas was 4.0% lower at $2.50/MMBtu.  
  • The number of active oil and gas rigs in the U.S. fell by one last week to 402, or 390 fewer than the same time last year. 
  • JPMorgan predicts U.S. shale activity will increase in the second half of this year if current prices hold around the same level.
  • The U.S. average diesel fuel price increased 10 cents to $3.07 per gallon at the start of March, up more than 22 cents from a year ago.
  • India’s oil consumption was down 5% in February, the result of record-high gas and diesel prices. 
  • Mexican state oil company Pemex announced that it discovered a one-billion-barrel oil field in the state of Tabasco, a major step forward as the nation attempts to rejuvenate its oil industry.  
  • New trade data shows that American exporters are continuing to ship plastic waste to poorer countries despite an agreement made last year between 180 nations to limit the practice.
  • Our most recent list of force majeure and allocation announcements from suppliers is here.

Supply Chain

  • A powerful late winter storm caused airport and road closures, power outages and avalanche warnings in parts of Colorado, Wyoming and Nebraska.
  • Successful vaccination campaigns in the U.S., accumulated savings and the $1.9 trillion relief bill are turbocharging consumer demand, adding to shipping bottlenecks around the world. 
  • The queue of container ships awaiting berth space to unload at California ports was down to 22 yesterday from 29 a week earlier. 
  • For the week ending March 6, U.S. rail carloads were up 1.1% annually, while intermodal containers rose 21.5%.
  • An increase in costs for materials, parts and supplies, along with supply chain issues caused by the pandemic are taking a toll on the construction industry.
  • The European Union is preparing a legal action against the U.K. for unilaterally delaying new customs rules related to border crossings in Northern Ireland. 
  • French container line CMA CGM reported more than $1 billion in fourth-quarter profit, as weak demand in the first half of the year gave way to increased demand and sky-high rates in the second half. 
  • More than 200 vessels in the Norwegian fleet have been laid up without any work since January, a record, as the pandemic shut down many of the country’s markets.
  • Royal Dutch Shell is chartering 10 new LNG-driven supertankers built in South Korea, a project expected to be completed in 2022.
  • Two global maritime organizations are recommending a tax on CO2 in shipping that would provide a market-based mechanism to slow greenhouse gas emissions.
  • 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 38,222 new COVID-19 cases and 572 deaths in the U.S. yesterday. Over 107 million vaccine doses have been administered, with 11.06% of the population fully vaccinated.
  • The number of U.S. patients hospitalized with COVID-19 has been falling the past two months, reaching 45,000 last week after setting a record of 141,000 on Jan. 7. 
  • The U.S. surpassed 100 million COVID-19 vaccinations on Friday, an average of 2.5 million doses per day, while newly reported infections declined two days in a row on Friday and Saturday.
  • On Saturday, the nation administered 4.6 million vaccine doses, a world record.
  • A handful of states, including California, Texas, Georgia and Kentucky, are expanding COVID-19 vaccine eligibility starting today. On April 5, all residents of Michigan over age 16 will be able to get a vaccine.
  • States are finding thousands of unreported COVID-19 fatalities as death certificate data catches up to real-time counts provided by hospitals and local governments. 
  • A new study suggests the U.K. variant of COVID-19 may be 64% more lethal than previous strains.
  • The U.S. could experience another COVID-19 surge if it lifts restrictions too soon, the nation’s top infectious disease expert is warning. As pandemic restrictions loosen in several states, businesses are being left to write the rules on face coverings and distancing requirements.
  • The federal government is halting distribution of Eli Lilly’s COVID-19 antibody drug to California, Arizona and Nevada due to the high prevalence of the “California” variant that is resistant to the medicine.
  • CEOs have become activists for vaccinations, with some providing employees with incentives and time off to receive shots and some making vaccination a job requirement.
  • Daycare centers get nearly $50 billion from the just passed $1.9 trillion in pandemic aid, a bid to help parents manage returning to work after months at home. The plan also lengthens supplemental $300 payments to all laid-off workers through early September, promising to keep billions of dollars flowing into the economy each week through summer. 
Jobless Breathe Sigh of Relief As Biden Signs Stimulus Bill
  • Nearly 1.4 million travelers passed through U.S. airports on Friday, the highest daily count since March 2020. 
  • College students are flocking to U.S. beaches to celebrate spring break, heightening the risk for potential superspreading events.
  • Some hotels are adding “covid specialists” to answer questions, provide safety provisions and, in some cases, administer free tests as amenities for guests.  
  • Travelers are encountering a shortage of rental cars after rental car companies went into survival mode early in the pandemic and slashed their fleets.
  • Carnival expects to have all of its ships in operation by year end, but says the cruise industry may take two years to return to pre-pandemic business levels. 
  • Used cars, household appliances, and seeds and potted plants saw the most price inflation during the pandemic and initial rounds of economic stimulus. 
  • BMW said it will go all electric with its Mini by 2030. 
  • An increased demand for properties with electric car chargers and other eco-friendly features is starting to shape the housing market.
  • Border restrictions drove down enrollment of new international students in U.S. colleges and universities by 43% this school year, with most who did enroll taking classes remotely. 

International

  • Brazil surpassed India for the second-most COVID-19 cases in the world behind the U.S. as the country’s president mulls replacing the health minister in the face of runaway infections.  
  • COVID-19 cases have been rising in many parts of the European Union since mid-February, despite months of restrictions on daily life.
  • Hong Kong authorities sent hundreds of people into quarantine and locked down some residential areas in a bid to contain a COVID-19 outbreak at a local gym.
  • Sydney, Australia broke its run of 55 days without a new COVID-19 infection after a quarantine hotel worker tested positive for the virus.
  • Many regions in Italy will enter strict lockdowns today as the nation experiences an uptick in COVID-19 cases.
  • South Africa COVID-19 cases have fallen to 1,000 per day from around 22,000 per day in mid-January, a mystery to scientists as the country has neither a large-scale vaccination plan nor stringent lockdowns. 
  • More than 25% of Chile’s population has received one shot of a COVID-19 vaccine, putting the country among the world’s best for vaccinating its population. 
  • An Amazon warehouse outside Toronto will shut for two weeks due to a COVID-19 outbreak at the facility.
  • Canadian businesses, hurt by border closures that prevented servicing U.S. customers, are now facing an additional obstacle. With U.S. vaccination rates far outpacing Canada’s, the government does not expect to have all eligible adults inoculated until September.
  • AstraZeneca said it will no longer supply the European Union with the planned 100 million COVID-19 shots in the next several months, a result of manufacturing problems at a plant in Europe.
  • Ireland, the Netherlands and Norway joined a growing list of European countries to suspend use of AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine after reports of blood clots. The company, however, says safety data of vaccinated people shows no evidence of an increased risk of blood clots. 
  • AstraZeneca’s vaccine is among the least trusted of Western alternatives:
All Vaccines Are Not Created Equal in the Eyes of the Public
  • Mexico said it will continue to use the AstraZeneca vaccine despite reported cases of thrombosis. Mexico received a million doses of China’s Sinovac COVID-19 vaccine, as lawmakers plan to request an additional 22 million doses.
  • The U.S., Japan and Australia pledged more than $200 million to help Indian companies expand their vaccine production capacities, with the goal of adding a billion doses to the global supply.
  • China is easing visa restrictions for visitors who have received home-grown COVID-19 vaccines, which have not been approved by most Western nations.  
  • The United Arab Emirates is starting to give people a third dose of China’s Sinopharm coronavirus vaccine, as doctors report two doses sometimes do not generate enough protective antibodies.
  • Dubai is doing clinical trials of a breath test that would detect COVID-19 within a minute.
  • Global birth rates have fallen dramatically during the pandemic, a severe problem for the long-term if the supply of future taxpayers becomes too small to service coronavirus-bloated national debts.
  • China plans to begin raising the retirement age to counter an aging population and shrinking workforce. 
  • Industrial production, consumption, investment and home sales all rose more than 30% in China in the first two months of this year compared with pandemic-depressed year-ago levels, but momentum slowed from late 2020.
  • In an acknowledgement of pandemic lifestyle changes, the U.K. added hand weights, sanitizer and loungewear to the basket of goods it uses to measure inflation.  
  • Volkswagen plans to offer early retirement to thousands of workers in Germany and will extend its hiring freeze through 2021.
  • Tesla is in talks with India’s largest power company, Tata Power, about developing an electric vehicle charging infrastructure in the nation. 
  • Japan’s Ministry of the Environment drafted new legislation that will ban the issuance of free plastic forks and spoons given to consumers by convenience stores and other businesses.

Our Operations

  • Visit our new 3D Printing e-commerce site.
  • Listen to M. Holland’s 2021 Market Trends Podcast Series episodes featuring insight from our Market Managers.
  • 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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