Hardwood Markets Continue to Build MomentumThe Weekly Hardwood Review Leading Hardwood Demand Indicator (LHDI)—a forecast of future demand for U.S. hardwood lumber based on residential and commercial construction, import/export trends, inflation levels, and job markets—trends up to 117.8 in February and 124.3 in March from its present level of 111.4 (January 2013=100), as robust export growth will more than compensate for the lingering effects of slower home starts at the end of 2013.

Hardwood lumber sales have been brisk in January and many sellers have order files extending 30 days or more. Log supplies have improved and most mills are operating at “normal” levels, though some have lost time due to extreme cold weather.

Rising timber prices have kept margins slim for sawmills, especially those that don’t own any standing timber. Industrial lumber supplies have been very tight, with sawmills cutting more grade lumber in response to higher prices.

While end-users have been pushing back harder against lumber price increases, prices nevertheless climbed for a whole range of items last week. Shipments were strong for mid-February delivery to China and Vietnam, and European demand showed modest growth.