Madison’s In the News
As Madison’s Lumber Reporter notes, the original intent of US anti-dumping duties (ADD) and Countervailing Duties (CVD) was to apply these to “primary mills” only and not to downstream industries that further process or fabricate the wood, e.g. value-added product.
Madison’s Lumber Reporter concludes that, if the US Lumber Coalition and the USITA are “allowed to continue to increase the scope, pretty soon all lumber products from Canada, will be captured”, i.e. possibly subject to anti-dumping duties and countervailing duties.
A new president in the White House who campaigned on an anti-trade platform, new markets for Canadian wood products in Asia that reduce dependency on the U.S. and an ownership flip that has seen Canadian forest companies buy a significant number of American mills all bring new wrinkles to the perennial softwood battle.
“It’s a completely different world,” said Keta Kosman, publisher of the Vancouver-based trade journal Madison’s Lumber Reporter.
The U.S. lumber industry, she said, is strongly motivated to see duties imposed that seriously hurt the Canadian industry. At the same time, B.C.’s Big Three forest companies – West Fraser Timber (TSX:WEF), Canfor (TSX:CFP) and Interfor (TSX:IFP) – all own sawmills in the U.S.
Interfor produces more lumber from its U.S. mills now than it does in Canada. The ownership shift reduces the impact duties would have on the big companies. Smaller Canadian companies or companies solely dependent on the U.S. market will feel the pain. Those companies, however, have less political clout.
B.C. accounts for more than half of Canada’s lumber exports to the U.S., and Kosman said B.C. is the voice that Ottawa listens to. The B.C. industry position is that no deal is better than a bad deal.
SPF 2×4 Lumber Prices and Housing Starts
Data sources: Madison’s Lumber Reporter (SPF), U.S. Census Bureau, JAWIC and Statistics Canada.
“We feel it imperative that the wood pallet and packaging, door and window frame and fencing material industries petition for the exclusion of such articles, assembled or unassembled,” wrote [US customs broker Michael] Jones in the letter published Dec. 16 in Madison’s Lumber Reporter, an industry newsletter.
“If the COALITION is allowed to continue to increase the scope, pretty soon all lumber ‘products’ from Canada, will be captured.”
The size, scope and trajectory of the domestic pellet market in Canada is frustratingly, for Gordon Murray at least, opaque. The WPAC has teamed up with an established lumber market report provider (Madison’s Lumber Reporter) to build a subscription based report to remedy this. Keta Kosman, the editor of Madison’s talked about her first efforts into the endeavor and the challenges that she is already encountering. Pellet producers in Canada know that a domestic market would provide them additional markets and it is clearly top of mind for Murray.
Softwood lumber prices
Figure 1: Weekly lumber prices in North America
Sources: Madison’s Lumber Reporter, used with permission granted by the publisher
Figure 2: Weekly panel prices in North America
Sources: Madison’s Lumber Reporter, used with permission granted by the publisher
Current lumber prices tell more of the story. The key commodity price for 1,000 board feet of western spruce, pine or fir 2X4s, as reported by trade publication Madison’s Lumber Reporter, fell from a high of US$324 at the start of the year to a low of $253 at the end of April.
Another bright side in the market is that there is an increasing amount of flexibility in the U.S. supply chain, said Keta Kosman, publisher of the industry newsletter Madison’s Lumber Reporter. Both wholesalers and large building firms are carrying larger inventories of lumber and aren’t all buying directly from mills, which means more stability in pricing.
“It looks like China will continue on with very similar volumes as they did last year and the year before,” Kosman said. “The fact (shipments) aren’t going down is good enough for us right now,” she added. For growth, however, “everybody is looking at the U.S. through this year and next.”
“The way I see things going is that U.S. domestic (lumber) demand is going to be served by domestic U.S. production,” said Keta Kosman, publisher of the industry newsletter Madison’s Lumber Reporter, “and Canadian mills, West Coast mills (will produce) for that plus what’s going into China.”
Media Mentions, Madison’s Lumber Reporter
B.C. mills are well stocked in the immediate term, according to Keta Kosman, publisher of the industry newsletter Madison’s Lumber Reporter, with just some specialty timber — such as large-diameter saw logs — hard to obtain.
However, she added that as early as March, companies will have to start scrambling to find the right timber supplies to suit their mills, “and (that situation) is going to last for the next eight years.”
Some B.C. sawmills are already struggling to get enough logs, said Keta Kosman, publisher of Madison’s Lumber Reporter, but she said the Canadian and American lumber industries are already so intertwined that the two industries should be working closer together [to improve softwood lumber sales globally – ed] rather than fighting over issues like softwood duties.
“There’s not enough fibre to go around,” said Keta Kosman, analyst and publisher of the industry newsletter Madison’s Lumber Reporter. “Ten years ago that wasn’t true, but given the pine beetle, there are too many operators in the same area (in some locations).”
She added that most mills that are operating now aren’t running at full capacity. The overall industry is operating at 85 per cent.
Kosman expects more of the timber-supply constraints to emerge over the next two years.
But Keta Kosman, publisher of Madison’s Lumber Reporter, said data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Statistics Canada and Western Wood Products Association shows mills in the western United States and Canada are still operating below 90% capacity.
Kosman said people often ask her what a turnaround in the B.C. forest products industry will look like.
“I tell them you can’t really look at 2003 or the last ‘normal’ year when lumber was running between the countries, because China wasn’t really a player then.”
She pointed out that in 2008-’09, just as the U.S. housing market fell apart, China began buying a reasonable volume of lumber.
“So everybody’s going to jump – especially over the next two years – to serve much of this additional 12% capacity that’s ready to come back into the U.S. while assuring those long-term buyers from China continue also to be customers.”
“Keta Kosman, who publishes one of the trade journals that traders follow, Madison’s Lumber Reporter, said there is no business like it. From the harvest to the final user, there are so many variables.
“From actually putting a nail though a board in a house in the U.S. to the guy who fires up the feller buncher in an Interior forest, there are so many things that have to happen. So many variables,” she said.
Traders always have an eye on the log yard, she said, when they plan what they expect to be selling in the future. The logging season does not mesh with the homebuilding season, and both sellers and buyers have to gauge the weather to plan their inventories. The buyer and seller are often thousands of kilometres apart.
Availability of rail cars, floods and hurricanes in the marketplace, or a soggy wet spring in the bush can affect both the price and volume of sales.
And, Kosman added, there’s always the economy.
The price varies not only from day to day but from customer to customer, depending on the conditions attached to the sale, Kosman said.
Relationships traders have with their customers are also important, Kosman said. Customers often phone weekly, requiring specific orders.”
“Sales of U.S. new homes rose in June to the highest level in five years, signalling confirmation that B.C. lumber producers can expect continued increases in demand, industry analysts said.
“Our mills are hiding their smiles behind their caps right now, because it’s looking pretty good,” said Keta Kosman, publisher of Madison’s Lumber Reporter.
“For B.C. lumber, this is a leading indicator there will be new home building.” U.S. home sales are not yet high, but “reasonable,” Kosman said.
“Basically, we’re past the worst,” Kosman said. “All of these different indicators are lining up, pointing up, but they are still tenuous and weak considered to what we would consider normal.” “There’s a lot of things in the supply chain — in U.S. real estate, in the banks, in the mortgage rates — that need to sort out over the next couple of years.”
In the U.S., 60 per cent of home sales are all-cash buys, Kosman said.
“This is seniors and people buying a second home. We’re definitely not out of it yet.” Nevertheless, momentum is beginning to build.
“For B.C. lumber it means that as home prices go up and homes start to sell, the attractiveness of building a new home comes back, and it’s when they build a (single-family) new home that they use the wood. There’s always a lag between one and the other,” Kosman said.
The loss of the U.S. market several years ago was a huge blow for B.C. producers, who have now diversified their customer base by developing a stable Chinese market. China now accounts for 30 per cent of total B.C. lumber exports, up from 0.05 per cent 10 years ago, Kosman said.
The U.S. market might be returning, but “the thing people need to understand is that capacity is going to be less,” Kosman said.
“The total production of lumber across North America, even if things improve is not going to be what it was in 2004 because we lost a lot of mills ….
“My prediction is a rather maddening thing is going to happen. Lumber prices are going to go up because the supply- demand balance has shifted, but the volume sold will not be what we would like to see.”
Mills are running at 85- to 90-per-cent capacity, she said. “Once those mills go back up to full capacity, which I would venture will be in the beginning of next year, lumber prices are going to go up and U.S. housing next year will be better, but where are they going to get that wood from? There’s not enough mills.”
“However, early last month, Kanigan expressed frustration to Madison’s Lumber Reporter, an industry newsletter, at how long it was taking to increase the volume of timber available to them. He hoped it would have been upped much sooner, and suggested interference from Victoria was to blame.
Madison’s editor Keta Kosman opined that a private company restoring bad practices on public land “sent longstanding bureaucrats at the ministry into a tizzy. Their reaction is to bury the operator in paperwork, oversight, and a ridiculous level of sticking to details, presumably to ensure no mistakes are made.”
In the Madison’s article, Kanigan also wondered who his advocate was: “Who is my voice in Victoria? Who speaks for me, and the work I am trying to do?” ”
“Writing in the Madison’s Lumber Reporter, Keta Kosman said a mix of factors have contributed to a muted start to the spring buying and building activity. They include awful weather, and a sudden absence of business from China. Still, Kosman said this has helped to ease the pressure in the transportation side of the industry.
“The issues surrounding rail and truck transport that were on everyone’s minds three weeks ago have become secondary to the overall weakness of sales,’’ she said.”
“Add it all up, and you have demand from Asia and the United States outpacing supply, which has led to a doubling of lumber prices compared to a year ago. The price of Western Spruce Pine Fir (SPF) 2x4s has shot up from $220 per thousand board feet in April 2012 to $440 in April of this year, according to Madison’s Lumber Reporter.”
“When lumber prices sink by such a degree – from $380 [per thousand board feet] in Jan. 25 print to $355 last week Wednesday, then bounce to $370 for Feb. 01 print that is very significant. It means the market found bottom and prices are on their way back up,” said Keta Kosman, editor ofMadison’s Lumber Reporter, a B.C.-based industry periodical. “Historically, when we have the normal U.S. home building season and normal economic cycles, the low of an annual lumber price will last at least a couple of months. This time it lasted a week and a half. I can go back over my prices to 1952 and it is extremely consistent that the U.S. starts to buy in February for spring home building season. So last week’s print is an indication of where the market is going for the next three months. And that is up.”
“The game of trying to out-wait producers for prices to drop is over. The game of actually getting their [big-volume lumber buyers] hands on supply is afoot. I expect a very upside market until at least mid-summer,” said Kosman. She said the price of studs – a staple lumber product for construction – is a big example. “The supply-demand balance is so tight that one event can mess everything up. That event is going to be spring, and we are on a rocket to the moon starting last week.” She didn’t expect records ($440 per thousand board feet) to be broken but “one thing we can be sure of is the days of less than $350 are over.”
After falling to $130 for 1,000 board feet in early 2009, lumber cash prices rallied to surpass $300 in January, 2011, according to data compiled by industry newsletter Madison’s Lumber Reporter.
Keta Kosman, publisher of Madison’s Lumber Reporter, said there will be a brief lull when orders from China slow due to the Chinese New Year on Feb. 10, but US requests will start ramping up in February in anticipation of spring home building. Lumber production at Canadian sawmills in October posted a higher-than-expected increase of 7.7 per cent from a year earlier, and prices have ascended through what would normally be a winter slowdown, Ms. Kosman said.
“The price jumps have been juicy, and there is still room for improvement,” she said, noting that lumber traded at $440 (US) for 1,000 board feet in the spring of 2004.
Keta Kosman, publisher of Madison’s Lumber Reporter, said the end result is that there is now less logging capacity in B.C.
Machines were repossessed or sold. Workers drifted off to the oilsands.
But there is reason for optimism within the forest sector, said Kosman. She sees strong lumber prices this fall as the beginning of even better times ahead. With the U.S. Thanksgiving weekend approaching, lumber prices are holding on to gains they made earlier in the month. That’s unusual and it’s a harbinger, she believes, of a spring rally.
“The U.S. basically goes into slowpoke time from now until the end of the year,” she said. Prices should be falling.
If prices are firm in the face of the holiday slowdown, spring, she said, will be “nuts.”
“The small amount of ordering for the little bit of homebuilding that is going on at this time of year was enough to keep the mills in the driver’s seat because there is no inventory.”
When demand picks up in the spring, Kosman believes customers will be short the lumber they require. Those who pay more will get the limited supply.
“The supply chain has been really damaged,” she said. Wholesalers, and distributors have gone out of business. Trucking firms have disappeared.
Kosman forecasts Sandy will have an impact on B.C. lumber production and prices once reconstruction begins next year. The cumulative impact, from the log deck to construction site, means that when the spring building season begins, the mill, not the buyer, will be setting price, she said.
“Put all of this together, and for the next year or longer, we are going to have a supply-side market. The producers are going to be a lot more in control than they have been for years. “Basically anybody who is a logger and still has equipment is going to be working really hard.”
“Keta Kosman, publisher of Madison’s Lumber Reporter, said that lumber suppliers are being cautious and that they would be cautious regardless of which candidate won the election. She said demand for lumber was surprisingly strong even after Labour Day, and that she expects between that and the storm (Sandy), that business will continue as normal for lumber suppliers.”
““Nobody has been stocking inventory even this year because they don’t really trust the recovery is (really) here,” said Keta Kosman, publisher of the North-Vancouver-based industry journalMadison’s Lumber Reporter.
Kosman added that even with a modest recovery in American housing starts during 2012, North America’s lumber markets have seen “very restricted supply” conditions throughout the year. Buyers have had to order directly from sawmills rather than wholesalers. However, Kosman said, order files at sawmills are already booked for two to four weeks out, at a time when they are usually preparing to slow down production for winter.
“The longer out a mill knows that it has sold out supply, the higher the price is going to be,” she added.
Kosman added that B.C. mills could run short of logs to feed their facilities if tapped to meet a sudden demand at a time when weather won’t permit the ramping-up of logging operations again. Many mills will have to wait until winter when the ground freezes to begin replenishing supplies.”
Keta Kosman, publisher of Madison’s Canadian Lumber Reporter, said that besides skilled workers, the industry has lost a third of its logging contractors North America-wide.
“I think we are going to have a supply chain issue coming soon,” she said. “As things ramp up next year, there’s going to be a serious problem getting loggers and getting logs to the mill.
“Who are you going to call? (The workers) are not in the business any more. They have moved on. They have retired; their equipment has been repossessed or they are working in other sectors or other regions.”
Keta Kosman, publisher of the trade magazine Madison’s Lumber Reporter, said there has been a fundamental change in the lumber market in 2012 that bodes well for B.C. sawmillers.
“Up until February of this year, the buyers were in the driver’s seat,” she said. “But in February, when prices started to turn, the mills were now in driver’s seat.”
Right now, she said, the mills have three- to four-week order files, which is considered good for this time of year.
“We are still seeing relatively steady demand.”
Mills are running, but they are not putting on extra shifts, she said. Not only is there the issue of timber supply after the mountain pine beetle, but there are no longer as many logging contractors or truck drivers in the industry.
She said North America-wide, one third of the logging contractor workforce has been lost.
The bellweather western spruce-pine-fir two-by-four brand was trading at US$286 a thousand board feet this week, according to data compiled by Madison’s Canadian Lumber Reporter. That’s up from around US$250 in December, 2011.
Seeing a decline in the duty has been rare since the agreement was signed, said Madison’s Lumber Reporter publisher Keta Kosman.
“In summer 2006, prices were high because we hadn’t crashed yet,” Kosman said. “Only a couple of times since we’ve signed the agreement in ’06 did the duty reduce or go to zero.”
Kosman believes producers have learned their lesson from 2010 when the duty dropped to zero and they responded by ramping up production.
“They over-shipped so much that the prices immediately tanked,” she said. “You have to keep the supply-demand balance where it is. This is a very delicate balance.”
Kosman is uncertain whether lumber prices will continues to rise but doubts they will decline for the next few months. Exports into the U.S. for the first quarter of this year have surpassed those for the same period over the past four years, Kosman noted.
An upswing in construction of U.S. multiple-family housing is the prime reason for the increased demand and price of lumber, said Kosman. She also noted wildfires in some other provinces and states are adding to the trend.
North American dimension lumber prices have been firming steadily in the past several weeks, according to trade journal Madison’s Lumber Reporter. Benchmark WSPF KD 2×4 #2&Btr reached US$304 per thousand board feet last week, a 28.3% increase over one year ago when the price was US$218, and a 9.6% increase over one month ago when that price was US$275 mfbm.
Since the end of March, the price of Western Spruce Pine and Fir 2×4 dimension lumber has increased 27 per cent to $300, Madison’s Lumber Reporter publisher Keta Kosman said Friday.
Over that same span, utility #3 rose only three per cent but 2×6 lumber rose 10 per cent, “which is telling us that it’s U.S. multi-family construction because that’s what the 2×6 is for,” Kosman said.
The trend marks a change from the trend for the past few years, where increased demand in China for utility grade has prompted buyers to move up to #2 and better.
Kosman said the trend should continue.
“A month from now, I don’t know if we’re going to be up another $50, but we’re not going to be down,” Kosman said. “Through summer, these prices will likely remain close to where they are.”
Kosman had initially held off on making the forecast because of concern the recent disaster at Lakeland Mills, following the January explosion and fire at Babine Forest Products in Burns Lake, may have caused a temporary spike.
But she also noted prices for lumber produced in the east are also on the rise.
“Everything is up,” Kosman said. “The comments from our sources are that people just can’t find wood.
” Prices generally rise from January to about mid-March as mills supply retailers and home builders in advance of the building season and by now prices start to go down,” Kosman said.
Lumber industry watcher Kéta Kosman is concerned about the number of recent sawmill fires, not just in BC, but throughout North America.
Keta Kosman, publisher of Madison’s Lumber Reporter, said she is concerned maintenance issues, largely resulting from five years of depressed markets and prices in the North American sawmilling industry, could be at the heart of several recent fires.
“There’s been an unusual number of sawmill fires in the last few months and it’s not just here in B.C.,” Kosman said.
The Burns Lake sawmill fire killed two people on Jan. 20.
Fine particles of sawdust created in the milling process cause explosions, no matter how dry the wood is that is generating the dust, said Kosman.
“That fine-particle dust is extremely explosive.”
Keta Kosman, publisher of weekly industry newsletter Madison’s Lumber Reporter said there have also been several mill fires in the United States this year as well.
As markets begin to improve, mills that have not been operating full time are beginning to get more orders, she said.
Keta Kosman, publisher of Madison’s Lumber Reporter, believes even if Hampton does not want to rebuild the mill, another investor may step up.
Also, the First Nations in the area will want to build a mill of some kind there, she predicted.
“But by all accounts, it’s a couple of years away, even if action is taken quickly, because it is a total rebuild.”
But two years in the future coincides with when the lumber industry will start recovering, she said. So it could attract other investors if Hampton isn’t interested in rebuilding.
“There are people circling around looking for where the next value investment is and the forest industry is looking pretty good because it is under-valued by a lot,” Kosman said.
Madison’s Lumber Reporter has learned that the United States’ claim against Canada, for alleged subsidies on British Columbia’s timber stumpage rates, has been reduced from US$499 to US$303.6 million.
Madison’s Lumber Reporter publisher Keta Kosman said Friday the U.S. Trade Representative’s (USTR) Office has reduced its claim to $303.6 million from $499 million U.S. – a near 40-per-cent reduction in the penalty the U.S. has been seeking.
The rebuttal as filed with the London Court of International Arbitration on Dec. 23 and posted on the USTR’s website this week.
“This reduced request to the international tribunal is in response to the Canada’s defense, which was filed in November,” Kosman said in a statement.
“Canada maintained, in its defense, that low quality beetle-kill timber was not misgraded, as the U.S. alleged, because if that were the case timber buyers would have bid more for stands with a significant proportion of low quality trees.
“In further examination of the amounts paid for timber through B.C. Timber Sales, the U.S. found that B.C. buyers did indeed pay more for such stands.”
“This new penalty amount requested in the U.S. rebuttal suggests that USTR is confident that Canada will be charged with the entire penalty of $303.6 million.”
“The flip side of the offshore market for dimension lumber,” noted Madison’s Lumber Reportereditor Keta Kosman in 2010, “is that China and other Asian countries are also eager customers for logs. Their eventual goal is to process the logs into lumber themselves.”
One long time lumber industry observer says she has been watching the situation, and doesn’t believe that Sino-Forest will recover from its current difficulties. “I don’t think that the company will be able to pull out of this,’’ said Keta Kosman, publisher of Madison’s Lumber Reporter in Vancouver. “They are too far gone.’’
In a single week, [lumber cash price] for benchmark 2×4 western spruce, pine and fir jumped $22 to settle at $240 per thousand board feet on Nov. 15.
The outcome prompted Madison’s Lumber Reporter publisher Keta Kosman to say the price is going to remain steady or increase for at least the rest of the month.
The price had peaked at $260 on Sept. 23 but bottomed out at $218 as of Nov. 8.
“A reversal like this in one week is pretty astonishing,” Kosman said Friday, who added usually a catastrophic event, like a sawmill fire or a rail derailment, that threatened supply would be the only reason for such a jump. “Well, this is purely due to market conditions,” she said.
“The price of lumber will stay firm until December, which is completely opposite of what everybody thought,” Kosman said.
The price of spruce, pine and fir construction lumber closed the week at $240 US a thousand board feet, a $22 jump from the week before when it was at $218 US. The price hike is being viewed by B.C. lumber companies as one of the first pieces of positive news out of the U.S. in five years of dismal lumber pricing, said Keta Kosman, publisher of the lumber research journal Madison’s Lumber Reporter.
Apartment construction is on the rise in the U.S., she said, fuelled by the need of so many people who have lost their homes to find an apartment to rent.
One week doesn’t make a turnaround, Kosman said, but the with the U.S. holiday season approaching and mill order books filled for the next two to three weeks, she forecast that prices will remain where they are or go up between now and next January.
“This spurt in lumber prices is coming from the U.S.,” she said. “But it’s more of a function of a lack of supply rather than any remarkable increase in demand.”
Keta Kosman of Madison’s Lumber Reporter had a similar position, saying the Chinese government has clamped down on the availability of credit. “The government building is going forward – the community housing and the re-roofing and the demand for the trusses is going to stay – but the private building of apartment blocks for private sales is definitely slowing down in China right now,” Kosman said.
However, there are signs that the growth in purchases by Chinese buyers has eased off, according to Keta Kosman, publisher of the trade journal Madison’s Lumber Reporter.
“At Madison’s, we know that the stats [for shipments to China] are going to be down for the next couple of months because the price for lumber has softened from March until now,” Kosman said.
The May 20 issue of Madison’s Lumber Reporter has a great header—”Western Spruce Pine Fir Pukes.” In other words lumber prices have softened dramatically and are well below where they were a year ago.
Madison’s Lumber Reporter said the Japanese government has ordered 30,000 temporary and emergency shelters.
Madison’s Lumber Reporter said the Japanese government has ordered 30,000 temporary and emergency shelters, with work starting on 415 of these units.
“Keta Kosman, publisher of Madison’s Lumber Reporter, said a six-per-cent spike in lumber prices this week has sharpened the focus on transportation issues. Prices for 1,000 board feet of lumber broke through the $300 level to $306 for the first time in five years, with the exception of a very brief spike last spring, she said.
Railroads are sending rail cars directly from mothballs to shippers to meet the demand for lumber, largely brought on by “massive” buying from China, Madison’s reports in its March 4 issue.”
“The worst of the recession is over for the forest products industry, but even though companies are reporting strong results for 2010, plenty of obstacles loom in 2011 that are keeping a lid on optimism.”
“Everybody is poised and waiting. The mood is bullish but nobody wants to say it,” said Keta Kosman, publisher of Madison’s Lumber Reporter.
“China is not stopping and demand in Japan is starting to come back,” said Kosman. “The Pacific Rim is going to be hot. Between those two countries we can get the beetle kill out of there and producers can also make some money on the premium wood going to Japan.”
Keta Kosman, publisher of the trade journal Madison’s Lumber Reporter, said the American challenge poses a serious threat to the B.C. forest sector.
Madison’s Lumber Reporter showed a similar trend, pegging increases in a range of lumber products. Its price for its benchmark RL spruce-pine-fir two-by-four was $250 at the end of last week, up from $235 last week and $140 a year ago.
Keta Kosman, publisher of the trade journal Madison’s Lumber Reporter, said the American challenge poses a serious threat to the B.C. forest sector.
“This is aimed at B.C. now; this is the big dog. This is the one they have wanted since signing the softwood agreement in 2006,” she said.”
In November 2009 the North American forest industry began a fundamental shift that continues to transform both the product mix and customer base. After a dismal period over more than two years from late 2006 through 2009, lumber producers and wholesalers reported to Madison’s Lumber Reporter in our weekly phone surveys that there is now a massive influx of orders from Asia, lead by China, of enough volume to lift many of their companies into the black.
Madison’s Lumber Reporter appears on its annual year-end slot, one hour with Teddy Reynolds on Arkansas radio to talk about the lumber industry and projections for the coming year.
“Right now, Chinese buyers are bolstering a fall market that is usually quite quiet, Keta Kosman, publisher of the trade newsletter Madison’s Lumber Reporter.
Chinese buyers are a force that can “spin the entire North American lumber market with one swipe of the dragon’s tail,” in the words of Madison’s reporter Zara Heartwood in the newsletter’s Oct. 22 edition.
Kosman added that Russia has vast tracts of virtually untapped red-pine forests that China would like to tap, but the Russian government has thrown uncertainty into the equation with threats of a prohibitive export tax on logs.
“Initially [Chinese demand for B.C. lumber] was because lumber prices were so depressed. Now, with every passing month, they’re used to wood, working with wood, and the price is still quite low. We don’t expect that to shift over easily.”
Madison’s Lumber Reporter interviewed Pat Bell, BC’s Minister of Forests and Range. Bell said, “It is very disappointing that President Obama is talking about pulling down trade barriers, yet the US administration is entering into an arbitration over something that is clearly grandfathered into the 2006 SLA.”
“BC has not changed any of its harvest practices since the signing of the SLA. It is no big secret that the longer the beetle kill timber is dead the less suitable it is for lumber purposes. Forest companies in BC are doing the best they can with a very poor log grade,” BC’s Minister of Forests and Range, Pat Bell, said to Madison’s Lumber Reporter in an interview.
Keta Kosman, of Madison’s Lumber Reporter, said sawmill damage, while severe, will not affect markets to the degree that pulp mill damage will. “My perception is that what’s happening [in lumber] is the same thing that happens whenever we have a fire in B.C. Everybody tries to get what they can out of it, but it’s short-lived.”
The damage to sawmills has pushed prices up for products made from Chilean radiata pine, specifically mouldings. Kosman said she expects the solid wood shortage to work itself out within 90 days, as producers, particularly pine mills in the U.S. South, increase their production.
According to Madison’s Canadian Lumber Reporter the benchmark random length spruce-pine-fir two-by-four was pegged at $270 US. That’s down $22 from last month, but still up $117 from a year ago
Madison’s Canadian Lumber Reporter showed a similar trend, pegging increases in a range of lumber products. Its price for its benchmark random-length spruce-pine-fir two-by-four was $250 at the end of last week, up from $235 last week and $140 a year ago.
Link to podcast, half hour interview with Keta Kosman
Keta Kosman, publisher of Madison’s Lumber Reporter, said in an interview the immediate issue facing some sawmills is the fact that they are starting to run out of wood already.
Kosman said there is only a year and a half’s supply of wood remaining that’s close to the mills and economic to harvest. At the other end of the spectrum, timber can be available for five to 15 years for mills that can economically access the dead pine.
In the last week the cash price of benchmark lumber has gone up $26 US from $174 US for 1,000 board feet to $200 US, said Keta Kosman, publisher of Madison’s Lumber Reporter. Earlier this week prices for lumber futures were also up two days in a row, which Kosman called significant.
It’s not solely because of the fires but they definitely have an impact, Kosman said. Also pushing up prices is good news from the United States about housing starts, the restricted logging due to fire danger in both Quebec and B.C., mill closures and a potential labour dispute in the interior with workers without a contract since the end of June, she said.
Madison’s Lumber Reporter put the price of Western, kiln-dried spruce/pine/fir random length 2x4s at $162 US per 1,000 board feet. Prices were near $200 per 1,000 board feet at this time last year.
Western spruce, pine fir (SPF) prices closed last week at $162 US a thousand board feet, according to Madison’s Lumber Reporter.
Lumber bottomed out at $137.90 US a thousand board feet on Jan. 29, the lowest price since 1986. It hit a 10-year high of $458.70 in August, 2004.
Campbell was citing an article in Madison’s Canadian Lumber Reporter, which said Simpson: “estimated that punitive damages in the amount of $500 million could be claimed by the Coalition [for Fair Lumber Imports] against BC lumber companies.”
In an interview, Simpson strongly refuted the claim that he was inviting lawsuits, saying that is absolutely untrue.
According to Madison’s Canadian Lumber Reporter, prices for kiln-dried, Western spruce/pine/fir 2x4s was $148 per 1,000 board feet.
Spruce-pine-fir (SPF) lumber was selling for about $150/thousand board-feet last week, according to Madison’s Canadian Lumber Reporter. This compares to over $400 during 2004.
Lumber has fallen to historic lows of $130 US for the benchmark spruce, pine and fir two-by-four, according to Madison’s Canadian Lumber Reporter. During the peak of the U.S. housing boom in 2004 and 2005, lumber was selling at the $400 level.
Lumber prices bottomed out last week at $130 US a thousand board feet, the lowest they have been in 50 years of record-keeping, according to the trade journal Madison’s Canadian Lumber Reporter.
Without a mill, the local market for wood will be limited, giving the timber rights little immediate value. But the government’s move is still logical, said Keta Kosman, publisher of Madison’s Lumber Reporter.
“In the best-case scenario, where somebody comes along and is interested in the mill, the rights will be held by the government,” she said. “If nothing happens and those trees are just left, then they’re more valuable when this finally turns around.”
Keta Kosman, publisher of Madison’s Lumber Reporter, said she expects the U.S. housing industry to bounce along the bottom for several years and when it does recover, there’s no guarantee Americans will go back to building monster homes in endless suburban subdivisions.
“The old B.C. business model of pumping out two-by-fours to the U.S. market is essentially over,” she said. “There’s not really going to be any turnaround in the traditional sense for us.”
The province is also feeling the impact of falling commodity prices, especially for lumber. Lumber prices are in a desperate slide, said Keta Kosman, publisher of Madison’s Lumber Reporter. Producers are selling at a loss or just breaking even in an attempt to keep mills open. Benchmark western SPF (spruce pine fir) two-by-fours were selling for $188 per one thousand board feet this week, compared with $283 per one thousand board feet the same month four years ago.
“Right now, lumber is selling for freight plus zero,” Ms. Kosman said.
Industry observer Laurie Cater said the economic news coming out of the U.S. is not good. The situation is so bad that even if the price was to drop, B.C. lumber producers would likely not be able to sell any more product, said Cater, the publisher of Madison’s Lumber Reporter. “It’s a problem that is not going to go away,” said Cater, who talks to industry officials on both sides of the border each week to produce his newsletter.
Keta Kosman, publisher of Madison’s Lumber Reporter, said the company is obviously hoping the sawmill curtailment will have the same effect in lumber markets. However, she said, by September — when the mill is scheduled to come back — demand for cedar will likely drop further. “People are in stores right now buying cedar. They are not going to be buying it in the fall for that new deck.”
Keta Kosman, publisher of Madison’s Lumber Reporter, said Western, the province’s largest cedar producer, is probably attempting to keep the market from becoming over-supplied, which could lead to a rapid erosion of prices. “Over-supply is a danger. That’s what killed everyone last year,” she said of the commodity lumber market, where producers kept pumping lumber out to maintain cash flow despite falling prices. She said lumber prices are still strong, but if companies see their order files shrinking, they are likely to take action to keep supplies in line with demand.
Prices for benchmark random length spruce, pine and fir two-by-fours remain in the US$200 range, about half its peak price of US$400 reported in 2004 and 2005, says Madison’s Lumber Reporter, an industry paper.
What did this mean for prices? By the end of the year, lumber prices had fallen by $95 per Mfbm (benchmark WSPF 2×4 #2&btr) and OSB by $170 per thousand square feet (benchmark OSB 7/16” Ontario) from the same time last year.
The mood of lumber buyers in the U.S. is not good, observed Madison’s Lumber Reporter publisher Laurie Cater. He said nobody he has talked to in the industry thinks there much steam left for prices in 2007. Madison’s pegged the benchmark 1,000 board feet of random length spruce-pine-fir two-by-fours at $278 US this week, an increase of five per cent over last week, and a jump of 22 per cent from a month ago.
The shutdowns do not bode well for the health of the lumber sector, coming as they are at the beginning of the spring and summer construction period, said Keta Kosman, editor of Madison’s Canadian Lumber Directory. This is the time of year when companies should be operating flat-out to meet the demand for new housing, she said.
“Recent calls for more curtailments and cuts in production go unheeded,” writes Keta Kosman. Keta is the expert I hired to show me around BC’s sawmill industry last week.
The price of the benchmark random length spruce-pine-fir two-by-four climbed to $286 US this week, a 25-per-cent increase from five weeks ago, according to Madison’s Canadian Lumber Reporter. However, the loonie is at a record 30-year high, topping 94 cents US recently, which erodes the bottom line of lumber producers. “Any increase in price has been more than offset by a 94-cent Canadian dollar,” said Madison’s publisher Laurie Cater. “It’s a disaster,” he said.
There has been a slight lumber price increase in the wake of mounting temporary sawmill closures in Canada and the U.S., but nothing in the order of magnitude that would make mills profitable, industry observer L. Cater said Tuesday. “I don’t think anyone’s making any money,” observed Cater, the publisher of Madison’s Lumber Reporter in Vancouver. Even though prices have improved slightly, lumber producers in Canada are still facing a high Canadian dollar and low prices.
Laurie Cater, of the lumber trade journal Madison’s Canadian Lumber Reporter, said there’s a mood of pessimism in the U.S. housing sector that is working its way back to lumber producers in B.C. and affecting prices. Prices are down and the volume of wood products on the market is too high, given the weakening market demand, he said.
“The U.S. market is teetering,” said Laurie Cater, publisher of Madison’s Canadian Lumber Reporter, noting that new home inventories are now six months out, two months beyond comfort levels and interest rates are rising, cutting more buyers out of the market. “Lumber buyers are sensing the market is heading down, and they are waiting, watching to see how far down it will go.”
Lumber prices also reached record levels, helping to compensate for the duties. The price of western construction studs, an industry benchmark, was on average $393.35 US per 1,000 board feet in 2004, according to a spokesman at Madison’s Canadian Lumber Reporter, an industry newsletter. This is well above the average price of $269.15 US in 2003.
“The southern yellow pine market went crazy and, as that happens, it affects other species like spruce,” said Keta Kosman, a spokesperson for Madison Canadian Lumber Reporter, an industry newsletter. Kosman believes prices may moderate this week.
The price of 2-by-10-dimension planks soared $30 to $450 per thousand board feet, amid speculation that the hurricane damage will boost consumption of lumber next year. “It’s all panic buying, there is no shortage of wood at all,” said Keta Kosman, an analyst with Madison’s Canadian Lumber Reporter in Vancouver.
The combination of soaring lumber prices, and recent consolidation in the B.C. industry is creating the kind of efficiencies that the Americans never dreamed of when they slapped punitive duties on Canadian softwood, one analyst said. “Of course this won’t go on forever,” said Laurie Cater, publisher of Madison’s Canadian Lumber Reporter, a Vancouver newsletter that tracks wood prices. “It never does.”
We have the real, average-monthly price per thousand board feet (1MBF) for one box car of Western, Kiln-Dried (KD), Spruce- Pine-Fir (SPF), 2x4s, Standard and Better (Std&Btr), Random Lengths (R/L). The series was contructed from weekly reports in the trade publication Madison’s Canadian Lumber Reporter, weekly issues, January 1979 to October 1999. This price series is listed as \less 5&2 percent” discounts, and is free-on-board (FOB) mill.
In April, Doman announced it had accepted a slightly modified version of the unsecured bondholders’ plan. “It’s a sad day,” said Laurie Cater, publisher of Madison’s Canadian Lumber Reporter. “It’s an over-worked phrase, but this really is the end of an era. I always hoped they would survive, but lately it’s become apparent that wasn’t going to happen.”
Planned capacity additions in Canada and Europe for several new or expanded mills suggest that similar increases are also taking place in those regions.44
44 Madison’s Canadian Lumber Reporter, 25 June 2004.
“The B.C. strategy must have been a factor,” said Madison’s publisher Laurie Cater. “I don’t think the Europeans ever thought prices would go this low.”
“Some mills were able to show close to (a) profit, even with the duties,” said Laurie Cater, publisher of Madison’s Canadian Lumber Reporter, a Vancouver, B.C., trade journal. “The exchange rate is something that may accelerate some kind of settlement.”
“It’s very depressing,” said Laurie Cater, publisher of Madison’s Canadian Lumber Reporter, a Vancouver newsletter that tracks wood prices. Mr. Cater said the 13-per-cent rise in the value of the Canadian dollar so far this year is only adding to the pressure on the industry because lumber products tend to be priced in U.S. dollars.
In June 2003, OSB in Western Canada was selling for about $300 per thousand feet. This month, the asking price is nearing $700. The present conditions make this the longest seller’s market in the history of Oriented Strand Board (OSB) and analysts say the trend could continue into next spring. “Seller markets don’t usually last longer than a day,” said Laurie Cater, industry analyst and publisher of Madison’s Canadian Lumber Reporter in Vancouver. “This will be a full quarter of rising OSB prices. Ainsworth’s profits should be nothing short of sensational.”
The price for hemlock baby squares, a key product for the Coastal industry, was relatively stable in 2001 with prices up over year 2000 results. Average prices increased slightly again in 2002 to an average of US$597/mfbm4. However, Japanese demand is below 1990s levels and is likely to remain so given Japanese economic performance and shifts in product demand.
4 Source: Madison’s Lumber Reporter.
The speedy recovery in prices after the first quarter of 2001 has been seen as the result of United States retailers failing to renew inventory levels at normal rates during the preceding period owing to the perception that there would be a “wall of wood” from Canada following the expiry of the agreement. While some risk-averse Canadian producers may be holding back on shipments to the United States for fear of retroactive action if a new tariff or duty is imposed, overall, shipments from Canada have increased moderately. Lumber inventories of Canadian producers are building up and any United States bound lumber is being charged a premium to offset potential future levies.
Johnson, L. Ward. How Much for that Dog in the Window?. Madison’s Canadian Lumber Reporter, volume 51, No. 22, June 1, 2001.
The U.S. housing market is absorbing the last of the duty-free surplus lumber but prices have risen only slightly, says Laurence Cater, publisher of Madison’s Canadian Lumber Reporter.
In response to the U.S. tariff that came into effect on May 22, 2002, more efficient mills in the province increased production as a way of lowering average costs. Spruce-pine-fir 2x4s averaged $223 US per thousand board feet in the July to September period, down from $262 US in the April to June period. Recently, prices have fallen below $200 US.
Source: Madison’s Lumber Reporter