Wood Business

Industry News Markets
Panel prices recover magnificently, big changes at BC sawmill operators


October 30, 2019
By Madison's Lumber Reporter

This week started with big news as Canfor announced a bid to go private, and Conifex sold its Fort St James timber rights to Hampton, which plans to build a new sawmill within 36 months.

Last week, construction framing dimension softwood lumber prices rose slightly, while oriented strand board (OSB) and plywood prices absolutely soared. There are fewer panel producers than dimension lumber manufacturers — on a relative basis, and they are more disciplined with their production volumes during times of soft demand. Such a sheer change in prices, whether up or down, suggests a new level is achieved in the negotiations between panel buyers and sellers. As North America enters the annual storm season and California faces more terrible wildfires, it is likely that demand for panel in reconstruction projects will be strong. This could mean that these new price levels for OSB and plywood could remain into the U.S. home building season 2020. Of course only time will tell.

Madison’s Lumber Reporter reminds that at this time last year those record-high wood prices were in a terrifying freefall. The graph below illustrates the change in direction; with prices now heading upward after the lows of summer 2019.

The price of benchmark panel item Oriented Strand Board 7/16” Ontario shot up C$35, or +15%, last week, to C$275 msf, while that of Plywood 9.5 mm Toronto rose C$20, or +5%, to C$430 msf.

Sales volumes advanced in dimension, studs, and panels products after an early-week post-NAWLA surge in demand. – 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.

Prices of OSB 7/16” Ontario this week are up C$3 relative to the one-year rolling average price of C$272 msf, and are down $103, or -27%, relative to the two-year rolling average price of C$378 msf.

Eastern SPF plywood mill order files recently pushed into the week of November 25th, while that OSB was beyond November 11th. Plywood sales were in good shape heading into November, said manufacturers. With multiple closure and curtailment announcements last week, demand for OSB went crazy. – Madison’s Lumber Reporter

Western SPF Oriented Strand Board prices had already started to move up before last week’s mill curtailment announcements, and when the dust settled those prices had vaulted anywhere from +$71 to +$107. It was anyone’s guess whether this development was sustainable, but for this week at least sales of OSB went cuckoo and western panel mills were booked production into the week of November 18th. For their part, WSPF plywood mills remained firm on pricing, with mid-November order files.

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