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Strengthening sawmill order files push lumber prices up: Madison’s

April 4, 2023  By Madison's Lumber Reporter

Into the end of March markedly improved weather across the continent perked up demand for lumber, pushing out sawmill order files to almost a month. As such, suppliers were able to boost prices higher. The annual spring break brought a noticeable absence of players, as families took off work while the kids were out of school. As the market adjusted to this beginning of a seasonal increase in sales, prices of some items remained even while others did increase slightly. Transportation continued to be tricky, especially in areas of longer travelling distances where there was snow on the ground. Expectations were for another boost in demand as folks return to the office for the last week of March.

In the week ending March 24, 2023, the price of Western Spruce-Pine-Fir 2×4 #2&Btr KD (RL) was US$380 mfbm, which is up by +$16, or +4%, from the previous week when it was $364, said weekly forest products industry price guide newsletter Madison’s Lumber Reporter. That week’s price is down by -$76, or -17%, from one month ago when it was $456.

Traders pointed out that many customers were absent from the market enjoying spring break with their kids, and voiced their hope for a boost in business when school resumes.

“Depending on species, commodity, and region, varying levels of activity made the North American lumber market a hit-and-miss affair.” – Madison’s Lumber Reporter


As spring weather continued to percolate through some key consuming regions, Western S-P-F producers in the United States were less flexible with their asking prices. Improved overall demand resulted in mid-April order files, with big box customers apparently among the more prominent buyers lately. Players reported a wave of Euro SPF arriving to the continent, which pushed many suppliers to discount deeper than they would have liked to keep material flowing. Sawmill order files were stretching into mid-April on most items.

Canadian purveyors of Western S-P-F lumber described a middling market as prices and sales activity continued to stabilize. Discounted offerings could be found if buyers were persistent, but several key items were booking increased sales, thus prices appeared to show a broader trend of firming up. Demand for four- and six-inch #2&Btr R/L dimension led the way, with the price gap between the two a common topic of conversation.

“In mid-March prices of most species of stud lumber took another step forward, and Western S-P-F was no exception. Growing demand was evident all week. Producers rode the wave and boosted their asking prices on four-inch trims, while all other studs were firm at the previous week’s levels. Stud mill order files slowly marched forward, now into the weeks of April 10th or 17th. Buyers continued to focus on short-term coverage, but there were noticeably more transactions overall. Players reported large gaps in truck freight rates depending on origin and destination pairings. Drivers who had to run longer empty kilometres charged a premium for those trips.” – Madison’s Lumber Reporter 

Madison’s Benchmark Top-Six Softwood Lumber and Panel Prices: Monthly Averages

Compared to the same week last year, when it was US$1,400 mfbm, the price of Western Spruce-Pine-Fir 2×4 #2&Btr KD (RL) for the week ending March 24, 2023 was down by -$1,020, or -73%. Compared to two years ago when it was $1,040, that week’s price is down by -$660, or -63%.

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