Wood Business

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New NAFTA deal signed, softwood lumber prices hold steady


December 10, 2019
By Madison's Lumber Reporter

A significant uncertainty for North American business owners was resolved today as Canada, the U.S., and Mexico signed the new trilateral trade agreement, the CUSMA. Full details will be revealed soon, and the new deal will take effect Jan. 1, 2020.

Also this week the Western Wood Products Association released its latest monthly Lumber Track of Canadian and U.S. softwood lumber production and sawmill capacity utilization data, for September 2019. There is not much improvement in the figures, since all the sawmill closures and curtailments over this summer. However, the currently-stabilizing North American construction framing dimension softwood lumber prices suggest that supply-and-demand are in good balance, as forest operators approach their usual year-end seasonal closures.

Continuing flat, as last month, U.S. softwood lumber production volume for January – September 2019 was 26,616 mmfbm. Also like last month, softwood lumber production in Canada continued big drops since the beginning of this year, once more falling -11%, to 18,608 mmfbm, compared to the first nine months of 2018 when it was 20,889 mmfbm.

U.S. sawmill production as per cent of practical capacity for the first nine months of 2019 dropped quite a bit compared to the same time in 2018; at 83%, from 86% in 2018, said the latest Western Wood Products Association’s monthly Lumber Track. For January-September 2019, Canadian sawmill production as per cent of practical capacity kept falling off a cliff, to land at 80% from 89% the previous year.

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The price of benchmark lumber commodity Western Spruce-Pine-Fir KD 2×4 #2&Btr last week was unchanged from the week before, still at US$394 mfbm (net FOB sawmill; cash price, or “print”).

Most players were focussed on logistical concerns as they strategized for year-end. – Madison’s Lumber Reporter

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.

Compared to historical trend, last week’s WSPF 2×4 #2&Btr price rose further over last week’s gains, up by another +$25, or +7%, relative to the 1-year rolling average price of US$369 mfbm, and is down -$44, or -10%, relative to the 2-year rolling average price of US$438 mfbm.

Sawmill order files were basically to the end of the year; even as shipment times were exacerbated by deepening winter weather and the recently-resolved CN Rail strike. – Madison’s Lumber Reporter

The below table is a comparison of recent highs, in June 2018, and current December 2019 benchmark dimension softwood lumber 2×4 prices compared to historical highs of 2004/05 and compared to recent lows of Sept 2015: