COVID-19 Bulletin: March 8

March 8, 2021 • Posted in COVID-19

Hello,

More news relevant to the plastics industry:

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Supply

  • A Saudi Arabian crude facility came under missile attack yesterday, sending oil prices surging past $70 per barrel. The $70 price is higher than the annual average levels needed for the cartel’s largest producers to balance their budgets this year. 
  • Energy prices were lower in early trading today, with the WTI down 0.7% at $65.65/bbl, Brent down 0.7% at $68.86/bbl, and natural gas down 2.0% at $2.65/MMBtu. 
  • Saudi Arabia raised pricing for crude exports to Asia and the U.S. in April, a sign that the world’s biggest crude exporter sees continued growth in demand. 
  • In its shift to cleaner energy, China is importing more liquefied natural gas (LNG), a large reason behind the tripling of LNG prices in mid-January from the previous month. 
  • Saudi Arabia is building a $5 billion green hydrogen plant powered solely by sun and wind, expected to be one of the world’s biggest such plants when it opens in 2025. 
  • Last month’s freeze dented the glut of U.S. natural gas stockpiles originally caused by months of warmer weather and lower demand.
  • Texas lawmakers ruled against reducing nearly $16 billion in power overcharges caused by last month’s freeze.
  • Resin suppliers, struggling to make up for lost time caused by Winter Storm Uri, may see continued production problems through the first half of 2021.  
  • Pinnacle Polymers declared force majeure last week on polypropylene homopolymers and random copolymers after an electrical issue shut down a production line.
  • BASF Performance Materials declared force majeure on PA6 and PA66 compounds due to raw material scarcity. 
  • Our most recent list of force majeure and allocation announcements from suppliers is here.  

Supply Chain

  • The ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach remain choked with congestion, with 29 container ships in the queue to unload yesterday and 18 more scheduled to arrive in the next three days. The waiting time for a berth to unload is 7.5 days. Congestion at southern California ports is forcing shippers to consider switching ports to ease bottlenecks. 
  • surge of new orders for ultra-large box ships indicate supply chains after COVID-19 will be just as global as before the pandemic, despite hype about shifting manufacturing to geographically closer countries. 
  • Several lawmakers wrote to the Federal Maritime Commission to voice concerns about the lack of containers for U.S. exporters.
  • The White House recently held a meeting with members of Congress for initial discussions of a $2 trillion infrastructure plan touted on the campaign trail. 
  • Cargo through Brazil’s ports grew by 4.2% in 2020. 
  • Shutdowns from Winter Storm Uri are disrupting production of car seat foam, posing a risk to automobile manufacturing
  • Walmart announced plans to invest $350 billion over the next 10 years in products made, grown or assembled in the U.S. 
  • Crude carrier Norden expects 2021 profit to fall by nearly 50% on a “catastrophically bad tanker market.”
  • Old Dominion Freight Line will hire 800 drivers over the next three months
  • Revenues in the transportation management system (TMS) industry could double to $31 billion by 2025 as companies seek to navigate ever more complex supply chains.  
  • 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 U.S. recorded a full week with fewer than 70,000 daily COVID-19 cases for the first time since mid-October, though officials say the daily tally is still “very high.” 
  • New COVID-19 cases in the U.S. numbered 40,340 yesterday, with 669 deaths; 9.4% of the population has now been fully vaccinated.  
  • The virulent U.K. strain of COVID-19 is doubling its share of all new U.S. cases every 10 days, causing worry among some health officials over a fourth wave of the virus. 
  • Several governors are loosening coronavirus restrictions or lifting them entirely following Johnson & Johnson’s entry into the vaccine market. 
    • California theme parks, stadiums and ballparks can reopen at 15% capacity as soon as April, state officials ruled. 
    • Arizona ended occupancy limits at all businesses. 
    • New York City art and entertainment venues will be allowed to reopen at limited capacity April 2. The city recently reopened movie theaters, while New York restaurants outside the Big Apple will be able to boost indoor capacity starting March 19. 
    • COVID-19 cases in Texas, which recently dropped its statewide mask mandate and lifted all capacity limits, could begin increasing again
  • $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package, which contains direct payments to many Americans, advanced out of the Senate. The bill could be approved by the White House by midweek. It includes a $28.6 billion provision for restaurants to help recoup the loss of 450,000 jobs from November to January.
  • The U.S. has vaccinated half of its senior population, yet lingering hesitancy over the shots could make the second half harder to reach.
  • AstraZeneca is beginning to stockpile its COVID-19 vaccine in the U.S. as the company awaits regulatory approval. 
  • Moderna is beginning human studies of a modified COVID-19 vaccine that will target variants of the virus. 
  • Most small, independent pharmacies still await COVID-19 vaccine supplies. 
  • The factory that Pfizer will use to boost COVID-19 vaccine production was cited multiple times by federal inspectors last year over quality-control violations
  • U.S. scientists are pushing against some lawmakers’ calls for one-dose regimens of two COVID-19 vaccines that normally require two doses. 
  • The U.S. State Department warned of a Russian disinformation campaign aimed at undermining confidence in Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine. 
  • A Merck antiviral pill “significantly reduced” infectious virus in COVID-19 patients after five days of taking the drug. 
  • Strictly age-based COVID-19 vaccine policies in Connecticut and Maine are coming under fire as younger folks with serious conditions are excluded from receiving shots. 
  • North Carolina is the top-ranking state for distributing vaccines equitably among Black and white residents, a result of the state’s focus on gathering racial data for each shot given.  
  • Black and Hispanic women have been hit hardest by pandemic-induced job losses, with an unemployment rate over 8% compared to the 5.2% unemployment rate of white women. 
  • The pandemic has widened the gap between America’s rich and poor, with about 40% of upper-income adults saying their finances improved over the past year. 
  • More jobs were added in retail, manufacturing, and leisure and hospitality in February, some of the hardest-hit industries for job losses last year.
  • The U.S. trade deficit widened by 1.9% in January to $68.2 billion, with imports returning to pre-pandemic levels after dropping sharply last year. 
  • On the back of more coronavirus aid and vaccinations, the U.S. economy is poised to grow at an annualized pace of 4.8% in the first quarter. For the first time since 2005, the nation may make a bigger contribution to global economic growth than China. 
  • The U.S. dollar, boosted by higher interest rates, has risen 2.4% so far this year to a 3 1/2-month high. The Chinese yuan surrendered all its year-to-date gain in the face of the strengthening dollar
  • U.S. national debt could double to 202% of GDP by 2051 on the current trajectory, reflecting rising costs for healthcare and debt service. 
  • Remote work has accelerated a years-long trend of Americans moving to smaller cities where there is more space and lower costs. Manhattan alone has seen an 80% surge in the amount of sublease space available. 
  • Nokia announced plans to reduce emissions by 50% in its products and operations by 2030. 
  • Advances in CO2 capture technology that can turn gas into stone within two years has drawn recent worldwide interest, including from billionaire investor Bill Gates. 
  • Electric vehicles made up fewer than 2% of U.S. auto sales last year, as consumer demand has yet to catch up with industry and governmental promotion of the technology. 
  • An Israeli start-up has developed a new first-generation lithium-ion battery for electric vehicles that can go from a flat battery to a full charge in five minutes.

International

  • The coronavirus has not let up in Brazil, where cases, hospitalizations and deaths are all approaching record highs while vaccines are in short supply. On Saturday, the country reported 75,495 new cases and 1,800 deaths.
  • Brazil’s principal COVID-19 vaccine — developed by China’s CoronaVac — may not be effective against the virulent strain of the virus prevalent in the country. 
  • Germany’s slow vaccination rollout is starting to deliver results, with COVID-19 infections down 64% among those 65 and older. 
Majority of Germans favour easing restrictions
  • The U.K. expanded its vaccination program to include people aged 56 to 59. 
  • The U.K. tracked and found the last of six people in the country infected with the highly infectious Brazilian COVID-19 variant. 
  • Canada authorized emergency use of Johnson & Johnson’s one-shot COVID-19 vaccine
  • A potent antiviral drug for treating COVID-19 is in the works in Italy, with approval expected as early as this summer. 
  • Low corporate tax rates in Ireland attracted a wave of new companies into the country last year, leading to the world’s best economic growth during the pandemic. 
  • Indonesia is putting import duties on goods from China, Vietnam, Singapore and Bangladesh to help the nation’s struggling garment industry. 
  • Most U.K. companies will ask employees to return to the office after the pandemic, the Bank of England predicts.
  • A recent cyberattack on Microsoft’s email software is growing into a global security crisis, with 60,000 known victims so far, many of them small- and medium-sized 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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