North American OSB market to improve further in 2017
By International Wood Markets Group
Dec.15, 2016 – The future of North America’s oriented strand board (OSB) market is forecast to look up in 2017. And the continuation of that success lies on how balanced the OSB market proves to be in the next few years.
Wood Markets’ five-year outlook report has analyzed the data.
As our forecasts have warned over the past few years, the timing of increased OSB supply — from the restarting of another seven curtailed OSB mills and two greenfield mills that will come on stream at some point in 2017-2021 — will determine the exact trend in prices over the forecast period. The forecast shows that OSB demand should increase by over 6 billion sf between 2016 and 2021 – that balances relatively well with the expected new capacity additions and normal annual incremental production gains. However, the exact timing of new capacity installations and their start-up date relative to rising demand will have the greatest impact on OSB prices – this “Goldilocks effect” of trying to get the temperature right, or the balance of OSB supply versus demand, will create some price volatility at various times in the next five years. For OSB, this is nothing new, where prices could easily move by US +/-$50/Msf or more in consecutive quarters.
As a result, OSB prices are expected to improve in 2017, as demand remains strong and production tightens, before new mills start up. With five OSB mills scheduled to start up by the end of 2018, the pendulum is expected to swing later in 2018, to a temporarily over-supplied market at times. As a result, OSB prices could ease in 2018 and bottom out in 2019 until the incremental supply base is absorbed. After that, rising prices are again expected.
Any potential delays in OSB mill capacity restarts will improve the whole market situation by minimizing any oversupply situations. The real question is: will any company’s strategy be to delay capacity restarts to allow for a better market situation, where their competitors who have restarted mills earlier will then benefit from this situation? History would suggest “no.” And the other question is: if the OSB market situation looks too good, will any new greenfield mills be announced to create more over-supply issues?
• U.S. South OSB production is forecast to almost meet the previous OSB peak production volume (of 2007) in 2017 – moving from 2016’s anticipated 11.2 billion sf to over 15 billion sf in 2021 (+7% annually from 2016).
• A growing concern will be the raw material supply and costs for existing, restarted and new OSB mills, particularly in the U.S. South. The rapid expansion of wood pellet manufacturing plants continues to rise at a very fast rate where some of the new pellet capacity as well as sawmill expansions (that take advantage of soaring lumber prices after Canadian export duties kick in) will both compete directly with OSB mills for pulp logs and small SYP sawlogs
• If new wood biomass competitors in the U.S. South drive raw material supply prices higher, Canadian OSB mills may develop a raw material cost advantage (over and above the lower Canadian dollar), relative to U.S. South mills, and could gain market share.
• The strength of the U.S. dollar versus most global currencies, combined with increasing US demand, will drive imports from Canada and attract more offshore supply higher over the forecast period.
• Canadian OSB exports are forecast to increase from 6 billion sf in 2016 to 7.6 billion sf by 2021 — 28% increase over this five year period, with 98% going to the strong U.S. market.
• From an estimated 8 billion sf in 2016, Canadian OSB output is forecast to rise to over 10 billion sf in 2021 — an average annual increase of 5.6% from 2016 to 2021.
Full details of the five-year outlook for the U.S. and Canada’s lumber and panels consumption, imports, exports, production and price trends are available in Wood Markets 2017 – The Solid Wood Products Outlook – 2017 to 2021.