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Softwood lumber prices fall in key markets

June 15, 2015 - Lumber prices have fallen throughout the majority of the main softwood lumber markets in the world during the first quarter of 2015. The biggest declines have occurred in the U.S., Canada and the Nordic countries, while the drop in import prices to China and Japan has been more modest. 

The following is an excerpt from the Global Lumber Market Update from the most recent issue of the Wood Resource Quarterly (www.woodprices.com):

North America
So far in 2015, the lumber market in the U.S. has not improved as much as some market observers predicted (or hoped) last year. U.S. housing starts during the four first months have ranged between 900,000 (February) and 1.13 million (April) starts on a seasonally adjusted annual rate. Despite housing starts being lower in the 1Q/15 than in the 4Q/14, lumber production in the U.S. and Canada has increased slightly.

Lumber prices in the U.S. have fallen substantially over the past nine months, with southern yellow pine being down almost 30 per cent, Douglas-fir declining 18 per cent and spruce-pine-fir in Western Canada dropping 28 per cent.

Northern Europe
Lumber prices in the Nordic countries have fallen substantially since last summer (in U.S. dollar terms). The price declines in Finland and Sweden from August to February were 18 per cent and 22 per cent, respectively. Current price levels are the lowest since 2009 in both countries. The competitive prices in U.S. dollar terms have resulted in a sharp increase in shipments from Sweden to the U.S., though these levels are still low. Finnish sawmills have shipped more lumber to China, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the U.K. so far this year as compared to 2014.

With the decline in the value of the Rouble, Russian lumber has been become more competitive over the past 15 months. In dollar terms, the fall in the Russian currency has been about 27 per cent, and in Euro terms, just over eight percent. The average value of exported lumber from Russia has declined from $180/m3 in early 2014 to $130/m3 in March of 2015. However, Russian sawmills have been slow to take advantage of their country’s weak currency.

So far this year there have been only been price adjustments in lumber prices in Japan. Average prices for the domestic Sugi have declined slightly in U.S. dollar terms but were unchanged in Yen terms. Of the imported species, European whitewoods and Canadian hemlock have decreased the most, each falling about five percent from January through May.

Demand for softwood lumber in China has increased swiftly this spring. In February, import volumes were down to 860,000 m3, a two-year low, but have since doubled to 1.7 million m3 in just two months. Average import prices have fallen this year, with April prices reaching their lowest level since late 2012. Russian lumber continues to be the low cost supplier.

Global lumber, sawlog and pulpwood market reporting is included in the 52-ˇpage quarterly publication Wood Resource Quarterly (WRQ). The report, which was established in 1988 and has subscribers in over 30 countries, tracks sawlog, pulpwood, lumber and pellet prices, trade and market developments in most key regions around the world. To subscribe to the WRQ, please go to www.woodprices.com.

June 15, 2015  By Hakan Ekstrom/Wood Resources Int'l

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