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Lumber prices moderate as market adjusts

April 15, 2020  By Madison’s Lumber Reporter

The recent changes, disruption if you will, to the supply-demand balance of North American construction framing softwood lumber and panel products have worked their way through the market. Last week customers came back to suppliers with higher-volume orders than in recent weeks. This provided sawmills the ability to hold steady on prices for benchmark Western Spruce-Pine-Fir 2×4 #2&Btr KD (RL), at USD$310 mfbm. Producers in other regions like the U.S. south or Quebec dropped prices slightly but refused to go any lower.

Western S-P-F traders in the United States reported a steadier pace to sales activity last week as reduced production helped stabilize business and slow the bleeding of prices. Substantial volumes of low grade were ear-marked for shipment to China. There are many questions about home building and construction activity in the U.S. Last week buying from reloads and stocking wholesalers was relatively strong, however the final destination is remodeling and home improvement rather than new housing starts. Expectations are that major construction activity in the U.S. will return later this summer.

Western Spruce-Pine-Fir prices flattened out following sweeping sawmill curtailments; plywood prices were flat while Oriented Strand Board prices slid further down.” — Madison’s Lumber Reporter


Widespread curtailments at virtually every major Canadian lumber producer stopped the free fall in WSPF pricing last week. Order files at sawmills began to stretch out up to two weeks depending on the product. A burgeoning sense of panic spread among customers with depleted inventories as they realized the lion’s share of extremely limited production was spoken for. Major suppliers had already designated virtually all their low grade production for shipment to China.

In week ending April 10, 2020, benchmark Western Spruce-Pine-Fir 2×4 prices were USD$310 mfbm, unchanged from the previous week. Last week’s price was down USD$136, or -31 per cent, compared to one month ago.

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 of U.S. home builder’s current lumber buying activity

Both supply and demand stumbled again last week according to Eastern Canadian lumber purveyors. Buyers were apparently active early in the week, mostly probing the wholesale community for any remaining loads selling below replacement — Madison’s Lumber Reporter

Last week’s Western S-P-F 2×4 prices is down -$66, or -18 per cent, relative to the 1-year rolling average price of USD$376 mfbm and is down -$109, or -26 per cent relative to the 2-year rolling average price of USD$419 mfbm.

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

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