COVID-19 Bulletin: March 18

March 18, 2021 • Posted in COVID-19

Hello,

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Supply

  • U.S. crude oil, gasoline and distillate stockpiles all rose last week, as refiners boosted output with more facilities coming back online following February’s Texas storm.
  • The WTI crude price slid yesterday for the fifth straight day, its longest losing streak in a year. Crude futures were lower in mid-day trading today, with the WTI down 3.8% at $62.15/bbl and Brent 3.5% lower at $65.61/bbl. Natural gas was 0.6% lower at $2.51/MMBtu.  
  • U.S. exports of liquefied natural gas grew 32% year over year in 2020, hitting an all-time high in December after dropping to record lows during the summer.
  • Oil prices are likely to remain at the current high levels in March and April with Brent crude averaging between $65 and $70 per barrel, the Energy Information Administration forecasts. 
  • The increase in driving is pushing prices for biofuels higher, including Renewable Identification Numbers (RINs), biofuel credits that refiners can use to help meet government ethanol quotas. 
  • Global gasoline demand has peaked and will not return to pre-pandemic levels, according to the Paris-based energy watchdog International Energy Agency.
  • Global oil demand could take until 2023 to return to pre-pandemic levels of 100 million bpd. 
  • Plastic resin prices are at all-time highs as the industry, which had yet to recover from the hurricane season, now struggles to restart from Winter Storm Uri.  
  • Bale prices for curbside plastics are surging, with the average price of PET beverage bottles and jars, PET thermoforms, and HDPE reaching new highs.
  • Our most recent list of force majeure and allocation announcements from suppliers is here.

Supply Chain

  • Supply chains of major corporations continue to take hits from the effects of extreme weather last month, port backlogs across the world, and the pandemic-driven rise in consumer demand for many goods.
  • Japanese companies shifting their supply chains from China to other Asian sites are paying the price for better stability with higher production costs.
  • February was the busiest month in history for the Port of Los Angeles, with loaded imports rising 53% year over year. 
  • The Port of Charleston is the latest U.S. port to fall victim to increasing bottlenecks and backlogs due to a surge of pandemic-driven imports.   
  • Container traffic at Port Houston fell 10% in February after the Texas storm shut port facilities for nearly a week. 
  • Large numbers of very large crude carriers are idling off the coast of Singapore amid plummeting transport rates. 
  • The global computer chip shortage is now even impacting companies that make needed equipment to manufacture computer chips. 
  • Major U.S. tech companies could be shifting toward designing and producing their own semiconductor chips in-house, a cost-saving measure that also reduces reliance on third-party producers as a chip shortage roils various industries. 
  • In Congressional testimony yesterday, the CEO of FedEx advocated for longer trailers to help combat climate change.
  • A shortage of corrugated material is requiring some suppliers to ship in boxes that may not be stackable. Such unstackable packaging should be clearly marked. In the interest of safety, we urge clients and our fulfillment partners to notify anyone involved in logistics operations to be mindful of the shortage and careful to heed warning labels that may appear on resin containers.
  • 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

Child Covid Cases Rapidly Fall
  • Major U.S. banks are beginning to request employees and interns return to in-office work.
  • First-time jobless claims jumped unexpectedly last week to 770,000, compared with analyst expectations of 700,000 and prior week claims of 725,000. 
  • Federal Reserve officials expect the U.S. economy to recover more quickly than they did a few months ago but plan to maintain easy-money policies, including ultralow interest rates. 
  • Over the next two quarters, consumer spending is likely to be the strongest in at least 70 years with a rebound in services leading the way. 
  • The IRS delayed the main April 15 tax-filing deadline for individuals to May 17, a bid to give Americans more time to work through an unusually complicated tax season. 
  • America’s 100 largest cities have enacted more than 2,800 policies directly in response to the pandemic, with efforts to reclaim public space and expand low-income housing among those most likely to last. 
  • The spirits sector is pressing to make local liberalization of alcohol regulations permanent after 33 states allowed take-out and/or home delivery of alcoholic beverages during the pandemic.  
  • The White House is preparing to extend the enrollment window for federally procured healthcare plans beyond its current expiration date in mid-May. 
  • Walt Disney Co. is reopening two California theme parks on April 30, among the last of the company’s properties to bring back customers. 
  • American spending on travel dropped by 42%, or $492 billion, in 2020 according to a report by an industry group.
  • American Airlines has taken on $22 billion of new debt during the pandemic, bringing its total obligations to more than $50 billion as it faces prospects of long-term hits to profitability. 
  • Federal regulators have stripped Boeing’s authority to inspect and sign off on several newly produced 787 Dreamliners, a result of continued production issues with the wide-bodied jet that could cause safety hazards. 
  • Ford is letting employees continue working from home after the pandemic is over, part of the company’s new “flexible hybrid work model.” 
  • Call center clients used chat and artificial-intelligence bots less than 10% of the time prior to the pandemic, a number that has now reached 35% as companies undergo an even faster shift away from voice operators. 
  • Amazon will begin offering Amazon Care, the on-demand telemedicine service it developed for employees during the pandemic, to other companies starting this summer. 
  • GE Healthcare introduced a new wireless, handheld ultrasound device as it focuses on the pandemic-fueled growth in point-of-care devices. 
  • U.S. homebuilding dropped to a six-month low in February amid bitterly cold temperatures caused by Winter Storm Uri.
  • U.S. demand for flexible packaging, which increased by roughly 5% in 2020 due to panic buying during COVID-19 lockdowns, is expected to grow 4.5% annually over the next five years, despite efforts to reduce plastics in packaging. 
  • Schick has introduced the first disposable razor made from 100% post-consumer recycled plastic
  • By 2025, discount grocer Aldi aims to convert all exclusive packaging to reusable, recyclable or compostable materials while cutting back on overall packaging materials by 15%. 

International

  • The World Health Organization reports that a surge in new COVID-19 cases across Europe is causing more deaths now than at this time last year.
  • Paris is introducing new COVID-19 restrictions to counter rising infection rates that are once again filling hospitals and stretching medical resources.
  • Germany today recorded the highest number of new COVID-19 infections in nearly two months
  • New COVID-19 cases are ramping up again in half the countries that make up the Americas, with Brazil reporting the highest number of infections in the region. On Wednesday, the nation registered more than 90,000 new COVID-19 cases, a record.
  • India recorded more than 35,000 new COVID-19 cases yesterday, the highest single-day rise in over 100 days.
  • The Philippines is barring foreigners and limiting arrivals in its main airport for a month as COVID-19 infections surge again in Southeast Asia’s second-hardest hit country. 
  • Japanese officials are ending a months-long state of emergency in the greater Tokyo region. 
  • Despite temporarily halting use of the shots, Norway health officials say it is still too early to link three cases of blood clots to AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine. 
  • European Union regulators will issue updated guidance today on whether AstraZeneca’s shot is safe for use. 
  • European Union leadership threatened to ban exports of COVID-19 vaccines to Britain to safeguard doses for its own citizens at the start of a potential third wave of the virus. 
  • Two of Europe’s biggest airlines are starting to log passengers’ COVID-19 vaccination status with their identifying documents such as passports and IDs, effectively creating a vaccine passport that could help rebuild international air travel. This is aligned with plans for a bloc-wide travel certificate that will show a person’s vaccination, testing and recovery status for COVID-19.
  • New Zealand’s economy shrank 1.0% in the fourth quarter over a drop in tourism, prompting speculation the country is headed for a double-dip recession. 
  • Australia posted the first quarterly fall in its population since World War I, largely due to more people leaving the country than entering.
  • South Asian infant mortality rates increased substantially last year as the pandemic cut into essential medical resources that are otherwise reserved for babies. 
  • Global GDP could rise as much as 4.7% in 2021, rebounding from the sharpest annual drop in output since World War II last year.
  • The world’s leading seven nations are still in talks to boost reserves to the International Monetary Fund by $650 billion, an amount that could ultimately help support low-income countries battered by the pandemic.
  • Brazil’s economy ministry raised its inflation projections for this year to 4.4%, up sharply from earlier predictions of 3.2%. 
  • Canada’s inflation rate ticked up to 1.1% in February from 1% in January, largely due to rising gasoline prices. Home prices in each of the nation’s 11 major metropolitan markets rose for the first time since 2018. 
  • The head of the International Air Transport Association predicted that a consolidation of the global airline industry could be delayed up to five years after many governments took ownership stakes in airlines during the pandemic.
  • Mexico’s plastics industry shrank 9% last year, hurt by the pandemic and supply constraints. 

Our Operations

  • M. Holland is proud to be named among the Plastics News Best Places to Work again this year.
  • 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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