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Softwood lumber prices flatten or drop slightly as autumn comes on


September 15, 2020
By Madison’s Lumber Reporter

Madison’s indicated last week that most standard construction framing dimension softwood lumber commodities could level off or even start dropping, and that’s exactly what has happened. Players and industry insiders say that supply is improving as sawmills are able to get more lumber production online, just as the usual seasonal drop in demand arrives. However, the massive wildfires in the U.S. west coast — which have already caused huge damage to property — and looming storms in the U.S. southeast, could bring a surge in lumber and especially plywood demand for repairs and rebuilding of damaged or destroyed property.

“Fires raged throughout the Pacific Northwest as the pause in lumber sales persisted.” — Madison’s Lumber Reporter

Most Western S-P-F customers in the U.S. got spooked by recent yo-yoing futures board movement, culminating in a more even pace of sales last week. Sawmills kept their prices flat for the most part and continued to see strong demand, but the fever-pitch of buying in recent weeks subsided. Sawmill order files were into early- or mid-October and delivery times stretched ever-further as rail service worsened. Fires in the Pacific Northwest were on everyone’s mind as a deadly fire season raged in California, Oregon, and Washington State.

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Canadian Western S-P-F sawmills described a continuation to the pause to sales they saw burgeoning the previous week. For the first time in months small amounts of cash wood made their way to U.S. customers. Demand was definitely quieter as many customers waited to catch up on previously booked shipments. However, plenty of hungry buyers were still searching for limited material. October third order files at sawmills were commonly reported. Meanwhile transportation only got worse as arrival times were into two- to four-weeks. Recent rail car supply percentages were in the mid-60s for one large producer and reducing each week.

For the week ending September 11, 2020, softwood lumber prices flattened or dropped for the first time in many months, with benchmark softwood lumber commodity item Western S-P-F 2×4 down -$6, or -0.6 per cent, compared to the previous week, said Madison’s Lumber Reporter. Prices for this construction framing dimension softwood lumber item is up an incredible +$214, or +29 per cent from one month ago, when it was U.S.$746 mfbm. Compared to mid-September 2019, this price is up an astonishing +$584, or +155 per cent.

“Overall supply levels remained extremely low throughout the chain, and demand continued to handily outpace material availability. ” — Madison’s Lumber Reporter

With the weekly price dropping for the first time in many months, compared to one-year-ago last week’s Western S-P-F 2×4 price rose by +$503, or +110 per cent, relative to the one-year rolling average price of U.S.$457 mfbm and was up +$544, or +137 per cent, compared to the two-year rolling average prices of U.S.$411 mfbm.

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