COVID-19 Bulletin: January 15
January 15, 2021 • Posted in COVID-19
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- Oil prices rose to 10-month highs yesterday on news the incoming U.S. administration plans additional economic stimulus. Prices were softer in mid-day trading today with the WTI down 2.4% at $52.30/bbl and Brent off 2.3% at $55.11/bbl. Natural gas was 2.8% higher at $2.74/MMBtu.
- The Energy Information Administration lowered forecasts for global oil demand in 2021 by 200,000 bpd, now projecting a 5.6 million bpd increase over 2020 levels. OPEC, meanwhile, expects a slightly higher rise of about 5.9 million bpd in 2021 to 95.9 million bpd for the year.
- The Texas oil and gas industry contributed $13.9 billion in state and local taxes and state royalties in fiscal year 2020, a drop from 2019’s record of $16.3 billion when oil and natural gas production in the state surged.
- Texas and Oklahoma are now more attractive oil investment spots than Alberta, Canada, according to an analysis by the Fraser Institute think tank.
- U.S. oil and gas producer Chesapeake Energy’s bankruptcy plan has been approved, giving lenders control of the firm along with $3 billion in new financing, $7 billion of debt reductions and $1.7 billion in cuts in processing and pipeline costs.
- A U.S. banking regulator issued a rule prohibiting American banks from denying lending to oil and gas companies.
- Marubeni is the latest Japanese firm looking to exit the North Sea oil region as it seeks to sell its assets there.
- Halliburton is swapping diesel-powered engines for grid-supplied electricity in its operations in the Permian Basin, an attempt to lower the company’s carbon footprint.
- Italian energy utility Edison announced plans to buy wind assets and sell a gas distribution grid as the group ramps up its focus on clean energy.
- Royal Dutch Shell recently topped the list as the largest bunker oil supplier in Singapore, the world’s bunker hub.
- More than half of middle-market manufacturers plan to secure backup suppliers this year to overcome pandemic-induced supply chain disruptions.
- More than 40 cargo ships holding tens of thousands of containers are currently held up outside the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach this week due to congestion, with strong consumer spending and inventory replenishment expected to continue through late spring. A real-time map of global sailings is available here.
- Hapag-Lloyd expects the congestion at West Coast ports to continue to at least February.
- Up to 500,000 new 20-foot containers could be required to stem the currently red-hot market, one freight forwarder predicts.
- Some shipping lines are announcing temporary suspensions of cargo bookings into South China next month, a result of constrained capacity among local feeder operators.
- The global semiconductor shortage has not been caused by production snags, but rather soaring demand for items like personal computers and 5G phones.
- German logistics company DB Schenker suspended deliveries to the U.K., citing significant complexities with paperwork and red tape.
- Maersk sold its wind-powered vessel, one of the only shipping vessels with rotor sails in the world.
- 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.
- There were 235,561 new COVID-19 cases in the U.S. yesterday, the 10th straight day of more than 200,000 infections, and 3,929 fatalities.
- People who have had COVID-19 are likely protected from reinfection for at least five months, data shows, although they may still be infectious during that period.
- New York COVID-19 hospitalizations rose 3.2% week over week, as the state remains the epicenter of Northeast hospitalizations even as neighboring states saw their first slight declines.
- After opening vaccine eligibility, Florida is drawing visitors from all over the country, even the world, to get inoculated against COVID-19, a trend that has officials worrying about a lack of supply for full-time residents of the state.
- Minnesota likely has the most successful COVID-19 test and vaccination procedures in the country, an emulation of procedures in Hong Kong, South Korea and Taiwan that have kept those nations from soaring infection rates common in many U.S. regions.
- The U.S. has given initial COVID-19 shots to 10.3 million people, or roughly 3% of the population, as the pace of inoculations has started to pick up alongside broadened eligibility.
- Tech companies including Microsoft, Oracle and Cerner are beginning to work with healthcare groups on apps that certify a person’s vaccination status.
- A fourth lawmaker tested positive for COVID-19 after being bunkered down in hiding with other lawmakers during last week’s riot at the Capitol.
- The incoming U.S. administration is calling for $1.9 trillion in relief in another economic stimulus package, a plan to focus on vaccine distribution and economic relief, ahead of a broader economic recovery plan to be announced in February. The proposal includes $400 billion for a comprehensive national vaccination program with the goal of delivering 100 million vaccine doses in the first 100 days of the administration.
- New York City renters owe more than $1 billion in debt from missed payments during the pandemic, an issue likely to be aided by $1.3 billion federal dollars of rental assistance earmarked for the city in Congress’ recent stimulus package.
- A group representing U.S. airports called for more government assistance after forecasts show up to $40 billion in lost revenues and higher costs from the start of the pandemic to March 2022.
- The University of Michigan index of consumer sentiment slipped in early January on concern about rising COVID-19 infections and recent turmoil in Washington, D.C.
- Business inventories rose 0.5% in November from October, suggesting that the fourth-quarter economic rebound was driven largely by inventory replenishment.
- Last year, Delta Air Lines suffered its first annual loss since 2009, with $755 million in red ink in the fourth quarter, bringing total losses on the year to $12.4 billion.
- American Airlines will offer COVID-19 vaccines to employees at hub airport medical clinics, with inoculations for Chicago-based employees possible next month.
- The booming home construction industry is struggling with a labor shortage, as some of the millions of unemployed shun the industry as unattractive and many openings require specialized skills.
- Consumer goods giant Unilever expects global consumption patterns to remain suppressed in the first half of 2021, picking up in the second half as vaccinations begin to have more of an effect on the economy.
- Disney is ending its popular annual pass program at Disneyland in California, now closed, due to concern about capacity limitations when the park reopens.
- PepsiCo solidified plans to achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions across the company’s supply chain by 2040 amid increasing pressure on businesses to go green.
- The White House is preparing regulations to make it harder to impose higher efficiency standards on some residential furnaces and hot water heaters.
- The White House issued new rules yesterday that will exempt self-driving vehicles from certain automotive crash standards.
- Jabil has acquired Ecologic Brands, a maker of paper bottles and packaging solutions.
- Dunkin’ is introducing a plant-based drinking straw made by WinCup that will biodegrade in almost any environment.
- Global fatalities in 2020 rose 12% above average levels for any year, suggesting the pandemic had a far worse death toll than the nearly 2 million officially reported.
- The World Health Organization’s Emergency Committee will meet Thursday, two weeks ahead of schedule, to discuss virulent new strains of COVID-19 that have now been identified in 50 countries.
- The U.K. is banning travelers from South America and Portugal over fears of a highly contagious coronavirus strain that likely originated in Brazil.
- Italy extended a state of emergency imposed since the beginning of the pandemic until the end of April.
- France is extending a regional 6 p.m. curfew to the entire nation this Saturday, set to last 15 days, as lawmakers also mull a new lockdown.
- China reported its first COVID-19 death in 242 days after more than 120 infections were found to be locally transmitted Wednesday.
- Asian nations that have been most successful in containing the COVID-19 virus are taking a more cautious approach to approving and rolling out vaccines.
- Several Russian regions are mulling relaxing COVID-19 restrictions and getting rid of mask mandates for citizens who receive the homegrown Sputnik V vaccine.
- Russia is setting up to be the first country to authorize another China-developed COVID-19 vaccine, made by CanSino Biologics, for emergency use, though the drug has not yet completed Phase 3 clinical trials.
- Early data from Israel suggests COVID-19 infection rates began to fall two weeks after a group received the first shot of Pfizer/BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccine.
- Denmark has seen the fastest and most efficient rollout of COVID-19 vaccinations in the European Union, with more than 2% of the population already inoculated and all healthcare workers and the elderly expected to be given shots by April.
- India, one of the world’s largest manufacturers of COVID-19 vaccines, will offer 20 million doses to neighboring countries, some in the form of free aid, as the government draws up a plan to supply vials to countries across the globe.
- The African Union plans to make 270 million COVID-19 vaccine doses available by the end of 2021 after securing extra shipments of vaccines in collaboration with the World Health Organization’s COVAX program.
- The International Monetary Fund is urging countries to continue strong fiscal and monetary efforts to support economies ahead of continued risks of COVID-19 resurgences and variants.
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