COVID-19 Bulletin: November 18

November 18, 2020 • Posted in News

Good Afternoon,

More news relevant to the plastics industry:

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Supply

  • Energy prices were higher in mid-day trading today, with the WTI up 1.4% at $42.01/bbl and Brent up 1.9% at $44.50/bbl. Natural gas was up 1.8% at $2.74/MMBtu.
  • U.S. crude production will likely remain flat at 11 million bpd through 2021, according to predictions from the U.S. Energy Information Administration.
  • The European Union has plans to up its windfarm capacity by 250% on expanded operations in the North Sea, the Baltic, the Atlantic, the Mediterranean and the Black Sea.

Supply Chain

  • Container freight rates are soaring, with the Freightos Baltic Global Container Index at its highest level on record this week at $2,359 per forty-foot equivalent, a 30% increase from July 1.
  • One-hundred years after the shipping industry made a rapid shift from coal to diesel fuel, the industry could be due for another rapid shift, this time to renewable fuels such as hydrogen.
  • High volumes of freight have caused four- to eight-hour delays for trucks picking up loads at the port complex of Los Angeles/Long Beach, leading to industry calls for a stay on detention fees.
  • With tight freight capacity nationwide and supply constraints with many plastic resins, clients are advised to provide expanded lead times on orders to help ensure delivery dates. 
  • M. Holland published its view of how COVID-19 has disrupted the already complicated logistics network of plastics distribution. Click here to read our view on the future of logistics.

Markets

  • There were nearly 162,000 new COVID-19 infections in the U.S. yesterday with 1,707 reported deaths, the highest daily death rate in six months.
  • COVID-19 outbreaks in the Midwest have been more widespread and more sustained than coastal outbreaks, data shows. The region reported nearly half the nation’s daily case count on Monday.
  • Ohio’s governor announced a 21-day statewide curfew in response to surging infections.
  • Iowa senator Chuck Grassley, the second oldest member of the U.S. Senate at age 87 and third in line to the presidency, has tested positive for COVID-19.
  • CDC data shows Black, Hispanic and Native American people are four times more likely to be hospitalized with COVID-19 than other groups.
  • Pfizer announced that it will quickly seek emergency use authorization for its COVID-19 vaccine after completing phase 3 testing, concluding that it is 95% effective with no serious side effects and effective in older patients and with different races. The company is launching a pilot delivery program in four states to prepare for the distribution challenges of its vaccine, which must be shipped and stored at -70° Celsius. 
  • The FDA gave emergency use authorization for a $50 home test for COVID-19 that can return results in half an hour but requires a prescription.
  • Amazon has launched an online platform offering prescription drug discounts to U.S. Prime members. The company allows shoppers to pay with their health insurance, adding a major rival to drugstore chains and distributors.
  • U.S. industrial output rose 1.1% in October, following a 0.4% decline the previous month. Economists expect the number to continue to rise as manufacturers, mines and utilities return to pre-pandemic production.
  • U.S. retail sales rose a disappointing 0.3% in October, the smallest gain since widespread recovery began in May. The electronics and home improvement sectors were the only ones showing month-over-month growth.
  • Homebuilders are more confident in housing market demand than ever, with one measure of builder sentiment reaching a record high for the third month in a row in October.
  • U.S. consumers are borrowing more to finance large purchases of cars and homes while at the same time reducing credit card balances. In the third quarter, overall household debt rose by 0.6% while credit card balances declined by $10 billion.
  • Walmart’s third-quarter profit soared 56% from the year-ago period on sales of health and wellness products, groceries and electronics, along with a 79% spike in e-commerce sales.
  • The pandemic has created a surge in demand for residential fencing, creating shortages and long installation lead times.
  • GM plans to boost spending and accelerate its schedule to transition to electric vehicle production.
  • Construction has halted on at least 10 cruise ships worth almost $4 billion as the industry continues to falter under the pandemic.
  • The pandemic has forced nearly 200 major companies, including such iconic brands as Exxon, Delta, Boeing and Macy’s, into the ranks of “zombie” firms, defined as those earning less than the interest requirements on their debt. 
  • Guitar Center, the nation’s largest instrument retailer, is filing for bankruptcy in a bid to cut $800 million in debt, the latest retailer to go under on a pandemic-induced demand collapse.
  • Coca-Cola is beginning an incentive program in Austria where customers get restaurant credits by recycling PET bottles with codes underneath the caps.
  • Pepsi’s redesigned 2-liter bottles are 25% slimmer than before, an effort at making them easier for the average hand to grip.

International

  • Global deaths from COVID-19 hit a record 10,733 yesterday.
  • France became the first European nation with more than 2 million COVID-19 cases. French bars and restaurants will remain closed until mid-January alongside a ban on spectators at stadiums.
  • South Korea upped a notch on its five-tier restriction system after four consecutive days of more than 200 cases.
  • Led by South Africa and India, a group of developing countries will press the World Health Organization this week to suspend patent protections for COVID-19 vaccines.
  • UNICEF is organizing a global airlift with 40 international airlines to help distribute a vaccine to the world’s poorest nations.
  • Nigeria, Africa’s most populous nation, is lifting bans on international flights to the country from several carriers including Air France, KLM, Lufthansa and Qatar Airways.
  • Canada’s red-hot housing market is cooling, registering a 0.7% drop in home sales in October, the first decline since April.
  • Car sales in Europe fell 7% year-over-year in October as renewed lockdowns snuffed out a hoped-for industry recovery that began in September. Sales are down 27% year to date from 2019. 
  • Germany’s government proposed a $5.9 billion rescue package to help its struggling automotive industry and promote its shift toward electric vehicles. 
  • The U.K. prime minister announced a $15.9 billion “green plan” that will ban the sale of new diesel and gas cars after 2030 while funding development for electric vehicles, hydrogen, wind and nuclear power.

Our Operations

  • Our Market Managers report that tight supplies of many products are affecting most plastics markets:
    • Automotive: We are seeing continued strong demand for SUVs and light trucks as well as growing interest and development in electric vehicles. Supply chains remain strained, subjecting some assembly plants to part shortages.
    • Color & Compounding: Activity levels have improved in the past month, but overcapacity continues to persist depending on markets served. Consolidation continues, particularly in the masterbatch industry.
    • Electrical & Electronics: Demand for home electronics and computers remains robust. We are seeing some reshoring of production from Asia as manufacturers seek greater supply chain security.
    • Healthcare: Rising COVID-19 infections and hospitalizations are driving a corresponding spike in demand for hospital disposables, testing supplies and personal protective equipment, with some reshoring of production from Asia for such products. Many healthcare facilities are deferring elective procedures due to capacity strains, negatively impacting demand for medical devices.
    • International: Supply chains are congested, and freight costs are rising. In Latin America, many clients will be shut down several days longer than the normal holiday season due to the calendar, closing from the week of December 19 through Three Kings Day in January.
    • Packaging: Demand for packaging and single-use applications remains steady. We expect the recent spike in COVID-19 infections to increase demand for staples and food products in coming weeks. We are seeing increasing inquiries about sustainable solutions.
    • Sustainable Products: Contrary to early concerns, the pandemic has boosted interest and adoption of sustainable solutions, with growing use of e-commerce spawning new recycling and reuse platforms and the need for single-use disposables increasing awareness of both the importance of plastics and their solid waste challenges.
    • Wire & Cable: We are seeing the fastest growth in products to support the 5G buildout. A housing rebound has restored demand for some construction products. Demand from the oil and gas and infrastructure segments remains weak.
    • 3D Printing: The pandemic is accelerating adoption of 3D printing from industry for small-volume point-of-use manufacturing as well as custom-built printers for large parts and prototyping.
  • Resource Center: M. Holland offers a host of resources to clients, prospects and suppliers. To arrange a videoconference or meeting, contact: 
  • 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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