COVID-19 Bulletin: March 5

March 5, 2021 • Posted in COVID-19

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Supply

  • OPEC+ decided against increasing production next month, sending oil prices soaring nearly 5% yesterday. Under the scheme, Russia and Kazakhstan will increase production by 150,000 bpd, while Saudi Arabia will retain its voluntary 1 million bpd cut.
  • Crude prices were higher in early trading today, with the WTI up 3.4% at $66.012/bbl and Brent up 3.6% at $69.16/bbl. Natural gas was down 2.1% at $2.69/MMBtu.
  • The decision by OPEC+ to maintain production curbs was a blow to owners of crude supertankers, who have been plagued with overcapacity and depressed shipping prices for oil.
  • COVID-19 surges are hammering fuel demand in two key export markets for American refiners: gasoline consumption in Mexico fell to an eight-month low in January while demand for diesel fuel in Brazil was at its lowest since May.
  • Chevron is acquiring the remaining shares of Noble Midstream Partners that it does not already own in a stock-for-stock deal.
  • Chevron and Schlumberger are collaborating with Microsoft to develop a biomass energy plant in California designed to generate net negative carbon emissions.
  • FedEx pledged to become carbon neutral by 2040, joining more than 50 other major corporations to publicly declare carbon neutrality goals.

Supply Chain

  • Container volume at major Chinese ports rose 60% in February from the year-ago period. 
  • Poor port infrastructure could be part of the reason for ongoing backlogs at U.S. seaports
  • India will spend $82 billion over the next 15 years to improve port infrastructure. 
  • The U.K. listed eight “freeport” economic zones that will offer tax advantages and customs relief to businesses inside them. 
  • Soaring rates sent freight forwarder Kuehne + Nagel’s airfreight revenues up 11.6% last year despite declining volumes.
  • Canadian crude-by-rail exports fell nearly 40% in 2020. 
  • Old Dominion Freight Line’s revenue per day jumped 9.2% in February on higher less-than-truckload shipments and tonnage. 
  • North American heavy-duty truck orders rose for the fifth consecutive month to 44,000 in February, more than triple the number a year ago and 3% more than the previous month.
  • Delayed government approvals are stalling more than $5 billion of U.S. parts and components exports to blacklisted Chinese chipmaker SMIC, exacerbating the worldwide chip shortage. 
  • Prices for old chipmaking equipment have gone up 20% over the past six months as auto manufacturers and other companies seek supplies from any source. 
  • General Motors is expanding its effort to build electric vehicles in the U.S., confirming plans to build a second battery factory in Tennessee in a joint venture with LG Chem. 
  • Lowe’s fulfilled 60% of its online orders from stores and is fulfilling orders nearly six times as fast as a year ago. 
  • 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

  • The recent drop of U.S. COVID-19 infections is flattening, as officials warn a high plateau combined with pandemic fatigue could lead to a fourth wave. 
  • There were 67,164 new COVID-19 cases in the U.S. yesterday and 1,903 deaths. Nearly 28 million Americans have been fully vaccinated, 8.5% of the population.  
Vaccine Progress Sparks Optimism Among Americans
  • Alabama is extending a statewide mask mandate by five weeks despite coronavirus cases being down 82% from early January.
  • New York state received its first shipments of Johnson & Johnson’s recently approved one-shot COVID-19 vaccine.
  • Vaccine production could face delays as manufacturers deal with a shortage of raw materials for the shots. 
  • Medicine regulators from five countries — the U.K., Canada, Australia, Singapore and Switzerland — say approved COVID-19 vaccines that are then modified to target new variants will not need to be tested in large-scale clinical trials prior to authorization. 
  • COVID-19 fatality rates tend to surge where obesity rates are especially high. Countries where more than half of adults are overweight have recorded mortality rates more than 10 times those in other nations. 
  • A study of professional athletes suggests heart damage caused by COVID-19 is a rare outcome for recovered patients. 
  • The employment market picked up in February, with employers adding a better-than-expected 379,000 jobs and the unemployment rate declining slightly to 6.2%.  
  • Women, who make up less than half the U.S. workforce, have suffered a majority of the pandemic job losses, with many forced to leave the workforce entirely because of childcare duties and uncertain school schedules.
  • The Federal Reserve will keep ultralow interest rates and other easy-money policies in place as the nation is still a “long way” from maximum employment and 2% inflation. 
  • Final Senate approval for a $1.9 trillion pandemic aid bill is expected within days after Democrats advanced the legislation out of committee. 
  • The U.S. Treasury launched a $9 billion program to provide aid for minority and community lenders, who can use the funds to boost loans to small businesses and low-income earners.
  • With little more than a month left to go in the Paycheck Protection Program, the federal government again revamped the rules to make it easier for the smallest businesses to get loans. 
  • U.S. factory orders rose at a faster-than-expected 2.6% in January. 
  • The Chairman of the Federal Reserve expects inflation to increase this summer as the economic recovery accelerates but said the economy is not in danger of overheating.  
  • The U.S. dollar is up almost 2% against a basket of other currencies since its three-month low in early January. 
  • Rates for a 30-year mortgage topped 3% for the first time since July, the fifth consecutive week the rate has gained or held steady. 
  • There were more contracts signed to buy homes in Brooklyn and Manhattan last month than all of December and January combined, a result of low mortgage rates and ample supply. 
  • The U.S. temporarily suspended tariffs on U.K. goods in a significant easing of trade tensions stemming from government subsidies to aircraft manufacturers. 
  • Texas overcharged nearly $16 billion for power during last month’s winter freeze after keeping wholesale electricity prices high for 33 hours longer than warranted. 
  • The recent spike in wholesale power costs in Texas is causing financial distress for some wind-power generators who had financing hedge contracts to buy power during periods without wind.
  • Strong demand for food and household goods pushed Costco’s revenue up more than 15% in the fourth quarter.
  • Accident injuries were flat during the pandemic, with a plunge in sports and playground injuries offset by spikes in power tool, bicycle and skateboard injuries. Traffic deaths rose 8% in 2020, despite a significant drop in miles driven. 

International

  • Experts are concerned that a new COVID-19 surge could be emerging in Europe, where infections were up 9% last week, with much of the rise in Central and Eastern Europe.  
  • COVID-19 infections are slightly higher in France, with yesterday’s 26,788 cases marking the largest one-day gain in almost two weeks. 
  • German lawmakers approved a three-week extension of most lockdown measures. 
  • Cuba began late-stage trials of a homegrown, two-shot COVID-19 vaccine, the first vaccine developed and produced in Latin America.
  • South Africa is close to approving Pfizer/BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccine, months behind a spate of other countries.
  • The European Union’s controls on vaccine exports will be extended to the end of June. Recently, a 250,000-dose shipment from Italy to Australia was blocked using the policy. 
  • Once approved, Novartis will help manufacture German-made CureVac’s COVID-19 vaccine, currently in late-stage testing. 
  • Egypt could see more COVID-19 cases after the government took the unusual step of charging residents, many of whom are impoverished, for vaccines. 
  • European Union regulators have begun a review of Russia’s Sputnik V COVID-19 vaccine for possible approval.
  • With vaccine passports in use in Israel, those who can prove their status are able to access many more businesses and activities than those who have not. 
  • Chinese lawmakers are targeting a 6% rise in GDP for 2021, lower than market expectations. 
  • The U.K. is planning to raise taxes to cover losses after historic spending during the pandemic. 
  • Saudi Arabia will begin construction this year of a $500 billion Belgium-sized “megacity” in the middle of the desert, a bid to diversify the country’s economy. 
  • The European Commission announced a broad post-pandemic economic overhaul that seeks to reduce poverty, inequality and boost training and jobs by 2030. 
  • Some major banks are warning of a debt crisis for many emerging economies from rising interest rates.  
  • Close to a billion tons of food went to waste in 2019, with individual households responsible for more than half.
  • Europe’s major airlines are adjusting schedules and even plane layouts as they pivot their focus from business to leisure travelers.
  • Lufthansa is retiring its Airbus and Boeing jumbo jets as it adjusts its fleet to the post-pandemic environment and seeks to reduce costs and emissions
  • Volvo’s electric vehicles will only be sold online in Sweden, as the company bets that the cars’ lower maintenance and repair requirements will reduce the need for dealerships. 
  • Despite the Lunar New Year pause, smog in Beijing hit its highest levels in a year in February as holiday travelers in China chose the safety of car transportation and factories returned to full production faster than expected.  

Our Operations

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