A topsy-turvey North American softwood lumber market righted itself somewhat last week even as large numbers of lumber traders descended on Chicago, IL, for the annual North American Wholesale Lumbermen’s Association (NAWLA) convention. Scuttlebutt from that important event is that the Canadians were most interested in exports to Asia, especially China.
Prices on most construction framing lumber commodities corrected upward after terrifying drops since Labour Day. It is true that for most of this year demand from the US for ongoing building projects was unrelenting to explosive. It seems the uncertainty of long-awaited wood due to transportation and supply issues, as well as concern over log supply due to wildfires in important supply areas of British Columbia, were well resolved. So resolved that customers actually did not need to order more wood after Labour Day.
Sawmills and secondary suppliers, for their part, desperately searched for buyers to take the wood coming off the production line — not to mention that to already booked for manufacturing in the next few weeks. Sales were few and far between as end-user inventories were plump. At suppliers meanwhile, wood choked yards with scant space for any more production but no trucks coming in to deliver new sales.
Curtailments and downtown ensued. Several BC companies have announced normal seasonal maintenance downtown and rotating curtailments at several operations over the month of November. Some cited log supply issues, however Madison’s has heard that there is well enough logs in sawmill yards to take North America through the slowing winter months to the end of this year.
Prices on benchmark Western Spruce-Pine-Fir KD 2×4 #2&Btr bounced $8 following dizzying plummets over September and October. This, however, after an amazing run-up of prices through summer 2018, so a steep correction is not unexpected. On WSPF 2x4s Madison’s Lumber Reporter printed US$322 mfbm, up +$8 (or +2.5%) from the previous week, when it was US$314. While on Southern Yellow Pine KD 2×4 #2&Btr East Side, print was down -$2 to US$440 mfbm, from US$442 the previous week. This is a -0.5% drop.
Looking at one-year-ago, Western SPF 2×4 prices are down -$160, or -33%, from US$482 in early November 2017. For it’s part, Southern Yellow Pine 2x4s East Side have actually risen +$20, or +4.8%, from the same time last year.
The dynamic between Western and Eastern SPF, and indeed Douglas fir has not changed (please see graph this page), so it will be interesting to see what will happen with the respective movement between these three benchmark North American softwood lumber prices over the next few months.
Watch Madison’s closely to always have the latest information as soon as it comes out!