US Housing Starts & Softwood Lumber Prices: October and November 2020

US Housing Total Starts October 2020 & Benchmark Softwood Lumber Prices November 2020

WSPF-SYP-ESPF-2x4 Softwood Lumber Prices-2year-TOTAL-US Housing STARTS: OCT 2020

New home building in the US surged up by +5% to an annual rate of 1.530 million in October 2020 after soaring by +6.3% to an upwardly revised rate of 1.459 million in September. As in previous months, the increase was driven by single-family starts, which rose by +6.4% to 1.18 million. Compared to the same month a year ago, US housing starts in October 2020 were up by +14%, while building permits were up by +3%.

For the week ending November 13, 2020 the price of benchmark softwood lumber commodity item Western S-P-F KD 2×4 #2&Btr reversed recent drops, to climb +$10, or +2%, to US$590 mfbm, said Madison’s Lumber Reporter. This week’s price is -$370, or -39%, less than it was one month ago. Compared to one year ago, this price is up +$194, or +49%.

The USA purchases approximately 65% of Canada’s dimension lumber production mostly for home construction framing, while Canadian buyers account for about 10%, and those in Japan take 6%.

* Madison’s Lumber Prices, weekly, are a good forecast indicator of US home builder’s current lumber buying activity ——> DETAILS

November 16, 2020 “While prices of lumber and studs bottomed or bounced, OSB tanked, and plywood prices looked to be cracking.”                                 — Madison’s Lumber Reporter

US Housing 1-Unit Starts October 2020 & Benchmark Softwood Lumber Prices November 2020

WSPF-SYP-ESPF-2x4 Softwood Lumber Prices-2year-1 UNIT-US Housing STARTS: OCT 2020

Most important for the softwood lumber industry, single-family permits continued their seven-month streak of advances, rising by a modest +0.6%. This was offset by a drop in multifamily permits, down by -1.6%, the third consecutive month of decline. Overall, building permits were flat in October, at a 13-1/2-year high, after increasing by +5% the month prior. However, it is usual for home building and construction to slow down as the winter season comes on across North America

“Eastern S-P-F Oriented Strand Board (OSB) prices finally cracked hard last week, dropping between $45 and $75, with availability described as beyond prompt. Prices of plywood somehow stayed firm on December order files at plywood mills, but players felt the dam was ready to burst. Secondary suppliers sold around $10 below replacement costs just to keep from accumulating too much volume. In Western Canada OSB prices plummeted between $100 and $130, while plywood price quotes lost three per cent across the board.”    Madison’s Lumber Reporter

As market conditions stabilized, some North American construction framing dimension softwood lumber prices fell further, others were flat, and still others actually rose somewhat.

Just as has been said in many quarters in recent months; this is not a normal year and no one knows how 2020 will end. One thing is certain, as of mid-November there seems to be no stopping of demand for solid wood products and wood building material.

Benchmark Softwood Lumber Commodity Western Spruce-Pine-Fir KD 2×4 #2&Btr Prices: Nov 2020

Western Spruce-Pine-FIr KD 2x4 #2&Btr prices NOV 2020

Softwood Lumber Prices Stabilize in November

After a few weeks of seeming free-fall, most lumber prices stabilized last week as the supply-demand balance corrected nicely. Suppliers in Canada and the US saw more orders coming in as end-users continued to run on extremely weak inventories. Buyer reluctance in the past few weeks, while prices were falling and production remained high, evaporated. Customers could no longer wait to see if prices would fall further. Sawmill order files actually grew, for some products even into December which is quite unusual for this time of year. Producers fielded customer calls with glee, and looked forward to the US Thanksgiving holiday next week — which is usually the end of substantial lumber sales across North America until the beginning of the following year.

A sense of urgency developed last week among buyers of US Western S-P-F. The market appeared to be reversing and persistently bare field inventories lit a fire under customers’ collective cheeks. A resultant rush of business cleaned out most of the volume accumulated by both primary and secondary suppliers. Sawmill order files were pushed to at least two weeks out, with virtually nothing left for earlier shipment by the end of the week.

Last week manufacturers of Western S-P-F in Canada were able to harness the sales momentum they saw developing the previous week, keeping firm on pricing for materials they didn’t push and selling at new levels. Prices of standard-grade, #2&Btr 2×4 R/L, and utility-grade #3 2×6 R/L, each climbed $10 to US$590 and US$300 mfbm respectively. Demand wasn’t isolated to a few pockets either, as buyers from every corner of North America jumped in to cover their depleted inventories when they saw the market turn. Sawmill order files were all of a sudden into the week of December 7th, with prior availability drying up quickly on all other items.

Compared to the 1-year rolling average price of US$534 mfbm, last week Western S-P-F KD 2×4 #2&Btr was selling for +$56, or +10% more, and was up +$139, or +31%, compared to the 2-year rolling average price of US$451 mfbm. said Madison’s Lumber Reporter.

Madison's Historical Softwood Dimension Lumber Price Comparison Table NOV 2020

The above table is a comparison of recent highs, in June 2018, and current November 2020 benchmark dimension softwood lumber 2×4 prices compared to historical highs of 2004/05 and compared to recent lows of Sept 2015: