Strong demand sends softwood lumber prices higher
February 9, 2021 By Madison's Lumber Reporter
At a time of year when home builders and retailers — the end users for lumber products — are usually making their orders for expected construction and sales in the spring, softwood lumber prices surged somewhat last week as suppliers still did not have enough product on hand to meet demand. Due to low inventories, sawmills, stocking wholesalers, and reloaders all had to book their sales for several weeks out. Normally at this time of year, production has been good while demand is just starting-up after the usually slow holiday season. However, this time, lumber manufacturers barely had a chance to catch their breath as the momentum of demand through the end of 2020 carried forward into the first week of January 2021, popping prices up at that time. After a slight correction in mid-January, softwood lumber prices are headed back upward again, which is normal for this time of year. However, since they never really dropped in Q4 2020, these new “floor” levels are truly unprecedented.
In the first week of February, sawmills were taking orders that would not even go on the production line until the beginning of March. This provides a good indication that prices are not going to go down anytime soon.
“A strong undercurrent of inquiry and sales persisted even as demand paused for customers to digest previous orders.” — Madison’s Lumber Reporter
Demand for U.S. Western S-P-F was less extravagant than in prior weeks but maintained a low-key strength, according to players. Prices advanced on most items as sawmills extended their order files into late-February or early-March.
Prices of Western S-P-F commodities continued their upward trend last week as Canadian producers boosted their asking prices. Sawmill order files were almost universally into the first week of March.
In the week ending January 29, 2021, the price of benchmark softwood lumber commodity item Western S-P-F KD 2×4 #2&Btr jumped +$46, or +5%, to US$940 mfbm, from $894 the previous week, said Madison’s Lumber Reporter. Last week’s price is -$4 less than it was one month ago when it was $944.
“The transportation bottleneck for Eastern S-P-F last week continued to hamper overall availability of lumber and studs. Field inventories remained low and producers couldn’t keep production apace with demand. Early in the week buyers scrambled to find material before a snowstorm hit much of the Eastern part of the continent.” — Madison’s Lumber Reporter
Compared to the price one-year-ago, of US$408 mfbm, last week benchmark softwood lumber item Western S-P-F KD 2×4 #2&Btr was selling for US$940 mfbm which is +532, or +130% more.
The below table is a comparison of recent highs, in Sept. 2020, and current Jan. 2021 benchmark dimension Softwood Lumber 2×4 prices, compared to historical highs of June 2018 and compared to recent lows of Sept. 2015:
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