We received many comments worth repeating last week, but one stood out: “How long has it been since we have seen such clear superior strength of U.S. markets driving international prices?” Indeed, robust demand from residential flooring plants has been the leading driver of price increases for a host of items, particularly the common grades of Red Oak and White Oak. In addition, improving cabinet sales have bolstered Hard Maple, Soft Maple and even some Cherry prices. Solid gains in home sales have helped fuel at least part of the growth in flooring and cabinet demand.
Hardwood lumber production is slowly increasing, though a lack of loggers remains a major concern. In some states, workmen’s compensation rates, as a percentage of logger salaries, are as high as 75%, one of many reasons for the logger shortage.
Overall hardwood lumber sales were decent last week, but not as strong as a month or two ago, which is not unusual for summer. Concentration yards have a bit more inventory now than in the spring, but many would like more. Some residential flooring plants are still building lumber inventories, though several are now in replacement-only mode. Cabinet manufacturers purchased more lumber as their business showed further improvement. Export markets were quieter in almost every region, particularly Europe.