Hardwood lumber sales remained brisk and prices continued to rise across a wide range of species, grades and thicknesses. Contacts in virtually every market reported increased sales from year-ago levels and were optimistic about near-term business.
One concentration yard manager stated, “Our business is the best in 10 or 12 years.” Heavy rains kept kilns turning slowly, further reducing lumber availability. One West Coast buyer had difficulty finding 4/4 lumber, as many suppliers were out of inventory. Wet weather kept log supplies low in many areas.
In general, concentration yards reported low lumber inventories and increasing sales. Most millwork and several wood component plants also noted improved business, though component sales to the cabinet sector were still very competitive. Residential flooring producers were buying all the lumber they could find and/or afford. Hardwood lumber exports were generally steady, though higher prices and growing inventories made some Chinese buyers hesitant to purchase more. Regardless, exporters were struggling to fill the orders they already had.
Demand was generally solid for low-grade, industrial lumber, including pallet material. Some mills have slowed production of industrial lumber due to the strength of #2&3A Common Oak markets. With more mills sawing for value rather than grade yield, they quickly shift production to the products that bring in the highest total returns.