Utility-Grade Lumber Prices Jump, Forestry Labour Stoppage Resolved, Sawmill Capacity Utilization Improves

What a month for Big News in forestry February 2020 has been so far; with last week’s US Commerce Dept announcement of preliminary lowered softwood lumber duties on Canadian wood imports, and just this week a potential resolution to the extremely long-lasting forestry labour disruption on British Columbia’s west coast.
As well this week the Western Wood Products Association’s monthly Lumber Track shows Canadian sawmill capacity utilization starting to recover from brutal lows in the first half of 2019, while in the US it remained essentially flat over the previous year.
US sawmill production as per cent of practical capacity for the first eleven months of 2019 rose from the early months of 2019, and is at 84%, from 86% for the same time in 2018.
Canadian sawmill production as per cent of practical capacity recovered from brutal lows in mid-2019, to 80% in January – November 2019 compared to 88% the previous year.

North America construction framing dimension softwood lumber prices are quite buoyant, with benchmark 2×4 items this week matching price levels reached in the same time last year. — Madison’s Lumber Reporter

Madison’s Weekly Movers & Shakers Softwood Lumber and Panel Prices Chart FEB ’20

Madison's Weekly Movers & Shakers Softwood Lumber and Panel Prices Chart FEB '20

In week ending February 7, 2020, benchmark North American construction framing lumber item Western Spruce-Pine-Fir KD 2×4 #2&Btr (RL) prices jumped significantly, up by +$18, or +4%, compared to the previous week, to US$426 mfbm. This week’s price is +$24, or +6%, more than it was one month ago. Reaching levels similar to the same time last year, this price is up by +$4, or +1%.

As a comparison, for its part the price of #3/Utility grade of this commodity group has risen sharply in the past couple of weeks, up Friday by $18, to US$320 mfbm. Western Spruce-Pine-Fir KD 2×4 #3/Utility (RL) price is +$48, or +18%, more than it was one month ago, while compared to the same time last year this price is down by +$12, or +4%.

Be ahead of these data releases … Don’t delay, this week’s softwood lumber market comment was published to the website Monday morning.

Madison’s Lumber Prices, weekly, are a good forecast indicator ofWestern Spruce-Pine-Fir KD 2×4 #3/Utility Prices: Feb 2020

On the west coast of British Columbia, Western Forest Products and the United Steelworkers union representing more than 3,000 of its striking forestry workers have agreed to the terms of a tentative collective agreement. The union’s bargaining committee is recommending that its members accept this agreement.

Logistical transportation concerns aside, robust lumber demand kept the market rolling as February arrived. — Madison’s Lumber Reporter

Solid demand continued for Eastern stocking wholesalers last week, many of whom took their sales calls while schmoozing at the Northeastern Retail Lumber Association expo in Boston, MA. The atmosphere there among attendees was apparently bullish. With another week of decent weather across much of the Eastern Seaboard, customers bit the bullet and bought “insurance trucks” of lumber, studs, and panels to keep their inventories above water.

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

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