COVID-19 Bulletin: November 19

November 19, 2020 • Posted in News

Good Afternoon,

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Supply

  • Oil prices reached their highest levels since early September yesterday, buoyed by positive vaccine developments. Energy prices were lower in mid-day trading today, with the WTI down 0.5% at $41.61/bbl, Brent down 0.6% at $44.06/bbl and natural gas down 3.2% at $2.63/MMBtu.
  • China, the world’s largest oil importer and the only nation expected to increase purchases this year, has stepped up imports in recent weeks as exporters battle for market share.
  • Analysts predict a sharp drop in Thanksgiving travel this year, with only 35% of people traveling by car to holiday destinations. The drop extends the larger trend of decreased oil demand as coronavirus cases rise and lockdowns are imposed.
  • August saw a seven-year low in the production of Gulf Coast crude, which fell to an average of 1.2 million bpd after a string of hurricanes hampered operations in the region.
  • Twenty oil and gas companies in the U.S. filed for bankruptcy since the end of June.
  • A $47 trillion investor group pushing for corporate action on climate change has added Saudi Aramco to its “focus list,” a bid to pressure the world’s largest oil producer to create emissions pledges, climate governance frameworks and better climate-related disclosures.
  • Braskem announced its sustainability goals, including plans to produce 300,000 tons of recycled-content products by 2025.

Supply Chain

  • Hurricane Iota dissipated Wednesday after punishing Nicaragua and Honduras with deadly flooding.
  • October was the best month ever for U.S. rail intermodal, with container volumes up 10% from the year-ago period and almost a third higher than in April. In contrast, the tanker industry is in “cash burn” mode due to the oil and gas recession.
  • Driver shortages and high rates are opening opportunities for railroads to snag customers from trucking firms, partly contributing to an across-the-board increase in intermodal freight.
  • After reporting an 83% increase in third-quarter profit compared with the year-ago period, executives at Maersk, the world’s largest shipping company, are signaling confidence in the outlook for shipping, saying the second wave of coronavirus infections has had only a limited impact on global freight volumes.
  • Shippers are bracing for a flood of oversized item returns this holiday season, as large goods traditionally bought at retail stores have been swept up in a massive consumer shift toward e-commerce.
  • The U.S. trailer industry recorded its third best month in industry history, with October bookings up 6% from September and 68% from the same time last year.
  • 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

  • The U.S. recorded 170,161 new COVID-19 cases yesterday and 1,848 deaths, raising total U.S. fatalities above 250,000, the highest of any country in the world and more than twice the number of U.S. service members killed in WWI.
  • Hospitalizations are increasing in 51 U.S. states or territories, with 28 reporting record highs since the start of the pandemic.
  • Indiana is asking retired healthcare workers to return to work to address a shortage of medical personnel as COVID-19 hospitalizations surge.
  • New York City schools will switch to remote learning Thursday, as the state crossed its 3% test positivity rate threshold triggering a halt to in-person classes, while Kentucky will close in-person schools statewide beginning November 23.
  • New research suggests immunity to the coronavirus could last years, even decades, after a person initially contracts COVID-19, dispelling some fears that vaccines might have to be administered repeatedly to keep the pandemic under control.
  • U.S. employment fell by 4.5 million between mid-October and mid-November, a sign of a waning jobs recovery, according to Census Bureau information. Over 4.2 million of those surveyed said they left their jobs because they are infected with COVID-19 or caring for an infected loved one.
  • As restaurants struggle to stay open and keep workers, Starbucks is going the opposite direction, raising pay for incoming and recently hired employees by as much as 10% to attract and retain talent.
  • Rental-home construction is booming, up 27% from the year-ago period as people seek larger spaces at home to spend their time.
  • Shoppers have resumed panic buying of toilet paper, cleaning products and safety supplies as the pandemic spreads and more states impose restrictions.
  • Lysol is one of the few products for which consumers have maintained insatiable demand through the pandemic, with sales up 70% this year and the manufacturing facility running at triple its normal operating rate.
  • Bath & Body Works posted a 55% jump in quarterly sales fueled by strong sales of soaps and sanitizers.
  • Boeing’s Model 737 MAX will fly again after receiving approval from U.S. regulators Wednesday, though the company could still lose hundreds of orders for the jet due to the pandemic-induced collapse in air travel.
  • Graphics-chip maker Nvidia reported a 57% increase in third quarter sales from the year-ago period, an indication of continued pandemic-driven demand in the home computing sector.
  • The U.S.’s seven largest airlines are asking Congressional leaders for more aid in light of their potential role in distributing a COVID-19 vaccine in the coming months.
  • A silver lining in the pandemic storm: greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S. will be down 9.2% this year to the lowest level since 1983.

International

  • Tokyo is at its highest coronavirus alert level after cases in the city broached 500. In total, Japan posted a record number of 2,201 new cases Wednesday.
  • South Australia is imposing some of the world’s harshest lockdown measures after a cluster of 23 people in the state capital became infected with COVID-19. Schools, universities, restaurants and cafes are closed, while even outdoor exercising and dog-walking are banned as officials adopt a “go hard, go early” approach.
  • Four eastern Canadian provinces are a success story in COVID-19 prevention, with gathering limits now being raised and internal travel encouraged after the region strictly adhered to mask wearing and social restrictions early on.
  • Finland and Norway have also had success in staving off COVID-19 infections due to early, targeted and widely-followed lockdowns in March. 
  • India will be the slowest major economy to recover from the pandemic, not returning to pre-pandemic health until 2025 and facing a prolonged period of slower growth, according to Oxford Economics. 
  • Central banks in Indonesia and the Philippines unexpectedly cut interest rates in an economic stimulus effort.
  • Norwegian Air Shuttle, which pioneered trans-Atlantic budget flights, filed for bankruptcy, the biggest casualty to date among European airlines.
  • More than two-thirds of United Nations member states — including the European Union but excluding the U.S. and the U.K. — support drafting a Paris-like treaty to address a global plastic pollution crisis in the world’s oceans.
  • China’s president laid out a plan for future economic growth Wednesday, outlining broad goals of reducing tariffs, expanding imports of goods and services, and pushing technological innovation.

Our Operations

  • M. Holland will be closed next Thursday and Friday for the Thanksgiving holiday.
  • 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 rapid 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 sustainability 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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