COVID-19 Bulletin: December 31

December 31, 2020 • Posted in News

Good Afternoon,

More news relevant to the plastics industry:

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Supply

  • Oil prices were off in mid-day trading today, with the WTI at $48.09/bbl and Brent at $51.25/bbl. Natural gas was higher at $2.48/MMBtu.
  • U.S. gas prices hit a nine-month high as more drivers took to the road for holiday travel amid prolonged decreases in fuel production due to the pandemic.
  • Crude inventories fell by 6.1 million barrels in the latest week on a rise in exports.
  • State-owned PetroChina has plans to more than double shale gas output by 2025 to more than 22 billion cubic meters.
  • In a controversial move, the White House has approved the transport of natural gas by rail anywhere in the country, including densely populated areas, to boost exports.
  • Danimer, a producer of canola-based biodegradable plastics, went public yesterday through a reverse merger with a special purpose acquisition corporation (SPAC).

Supply Chain

  • Rail volume posted its first year-over-year quarterly gain in 2 years in the fourth quarter, with higher intermodal cargo offsetting a decline in bulk carloads.
  • The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration is proposing a pilot program to allow interstate routes for drivers as young as 18, a move to ease driver shortages and entice young people to pursue careers in the industry.
  • A previously suspended trade spat between the U.S. and France picked back up, with France collecting a digital-services tax on big tech companies such as Facebook and Amazon and the U.S. retaliating with new tariffs on $1.3 billion in French imports.
  • Electric motors, microscopes, salad spinners, thermostats, breast pumps, ball bearings and forklifts are among products that will be subject to import taxes when exemptions from tariffs on imports from China expire at midnight tonight.
  • European gig-economy companies, including Uber and Amazon-backed Deliveroo, are moving to secure labor agreements that give workers some benefits but stop short of making them employees.
  • Logistics conditions remain strained, with trucking demand exceeding availability, continuing congestion at ports, and backlogs at warehousing and packaging facilities due in part to operating challenges related to the pandemic. Shipping containers are in short supply, with demurrage charges rising. Clients are advised to provide expanded lead times on orders to help ensure delivery dates.

Markets

  • For the second day in a row, the U.S. suffered record COVID-19 deaths yesterday – 3,744. There were 229,042 new infections.
  • COVID-19 hospitalizations in the U.S. topped 125,000 for the first time.
  • This week’s COVID-19 case numbers will likely fall short of reality, with holiday breaks causing a drop in testing and slower reporting.
  • California reported 440 one-day COVID-19 fatalities, a record. The state also reported its first recorded case of a patient with the highly contagious COVID-19 strain discovered in Britain.
  • Colorado recorded its second official case of a patient infected with the mutated strain.
  • New York reported 13,422 new cases of COVID-19, a record. New York City’s positivity rate has topped 8% for those getting tested for COVID-19.
  • Some 10% of people hospitalized with COVID-19 must be re-hospitalized after initially recovering, often multiple times.
  • Several batches of Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine sent to Texas were delayed or returned after the shots strayed from the proper temperature range during transport. Five hundred doses were discarded at a Wisconsin clinic after being left unrefrigerated.
  • California is mulling a $2 billion plan to help reopen schools for in-person instruction by early spring, providing testing, ventilation and personal protective equipment.
  • There were 787,000 first-time unemployment claims last week, down from the prior week but still highly elevated. Another 308,262 people filed for jobless aid under the federal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program.
  • Protections against foreclosure on government-backed mortgages, set to expire today, are being extended through January.
  • The Treasury Department is warning financial institutions to look out for vaccine-related fraud, including the sale of unapproved, counterfeit or illegally marketed vaccines.
  • AstraZeneca/Oxford face the challenge of convincing U.S. regulators that their COVID-19 vaccine, while not as effective as shots from two rivals already rolling out, can play a role in curbing the pandemic. The shot was only 62% effective for trial participants, compared to 95% for Pfizer and 94% for Moderna.
  • The U.S. merchandise-trade deficit increased to an all-time high of $84.8 billion in November, with consumers importing a record value of consumer goods.
  • Pending home sales in the U.S. fell for the third consecutive month in November, suggesting higher prices and limited inventory are slowing momentum in the housing market.
  • The pandemic and associated boom in online shipments has created record demand for corrugated, stressing manufacturers and driving concerns about the environmental impact of discarded cardboard.
  • Netflix, the largest streaming service, will likely finish 2020 with 50% more U.S. subscribers than a year ago, as the pandemic ignites a major advance for the ever-growing industry.

International

  • COVID-19 deaths globally topped 1.8 million yesterday. Total infections approached 83 million.
  • COVID-19 fatalities in Germany reached 1,129 in 24 hours, a record.
  • COVID-19 cases are increasing rapidly in Spain, with 16,716 new infections reported Wednesday, a 2,700-case increase from the day before.
  • Italy’s total fatalities in 2020 are up 84,000 compared with the average of the previous five years, suggesting more COVID-19 deaths than officially recorded.
  • Another small coronavirus cluster of six infections, thought to be spread by Christmas celebrations, was discovered in Sydney, Australia, prompting officials to tighten restrictions ahead of New Year’s.
  • Ireland will enter its third national lockdown due to rising COVID-19 cases, with non-essential store closures, travel limits and delayed school re-openings.
  • Canada is now requiring all foreign visitors to obtain a negative COVID-19 test within three days before planned arrival in the country.
  • U.K. officials publicly stated their focus on getting the first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine to as many members of the public as possible, potentially at the expense of timely administering required second doses. The nation is currently treating more than 20,000 COVID-19 patients in hospitals, exceeding the peak reached in April during the pandemic’s first wave as lawmakers mull stricter lockdowns.
  • Singapore began vaccinating healthcare workers yesterday at the outset of a year-long, nationwide inoculation campaign against COVID-19.
  • A China-developed COVID-19 vaccine from Sinopharm was found to be 79% effective in preventing transmission of the virus, with the drug maker expected to apply for regulatory approval soon.
  • Ukraine is purchasing 1.8 million doses of Chinese company Sinovac Biotech’s COVID-19 vaccine at around $18 per dose.
  • Argentina became the second country behind the U.K. to approve AstraZeneca/Oxford’s COVID-19 vaccine for emergency use.
  • The World Health Organization is asking for $4 billion to fund its COVAX effort to provide COVID-19 vaccines to lower- and middle-income countries.
  • China’s manufacturing sector expanded for the 10th straight month in December, albeit at a slower rate than the previous month.
  • Following seven years of negotiations, the European Union agreed to an investment deal with China that will give European companies greater access to Chinese markets. The pact will likely take another year to enter into force.
  • Flushed with excess cash due to central bank relief efforts, European banks are now loading up on government debt, bringing fears of a repeat of the bloc’s 2012 financial crisis when falling government bond values created a “doom loop” credit crunch that slowed economic growth.
  • U.K. lawmakers have authorized the nation’s post-Brexit trade deal with the European Union, providing a final stamp of approval just days before the nation exits the bloc.
  • Fiat Chrysler will begin building electric and hybrid cars at an existing plant in Poland.

Our Operations

  • M. Holland will be closed on Friday, January 1, for New Year’s Day. To mark the holiday, our President and CEO shared this message and video with our Mployees and business partners.
  • 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.
  • To access 3D Printing training, order parts and seek technical assistance, visit our online resource.

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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