North American hardwood lumber exports slowed in July due to summer holidays, Ramadan, as well as ample supplies in some countries, which kept many international buyers off the market, resulting in the usual seasonal slowdown. Exporters found more price resistance when quoting new orders, particularly to China, where the spring spike in purchasing had elevated inventories.
Chinese purchases of North American hardwoods slowed in July, but exporters believe underlying Chinese demand is still strong and that buyers are simply trying to hold off on purchasing long enough to force price reductions. Despite the July slowdown, Chinese market growth has been impressive in 2013. Year-to-date U.S. hardwood lumber exports to China through June were 20% higher than last year, and Red Oak shipments were 47% higher. Several contacts said Vietnam slowed in July—in part due to buyers’ expectations that prices normally fall off in the summer—while others say demand remained fairly strong.
U.S. hardwood lumber exports to Southern Europe slowed in July, as summer holidays began. However, exports to the UK and Ireland were slightly better. While shipments to Germany were down 24% through June, the economy is solid and business has since picked up. Several exporters and European buyers noted increased inquiries for post-holiday delivery, and some expressed guarded optimism about the fall.
Mexican end-users and distributors continued to provide good demand for American lumber. Shipments to other Latin American countries remain relatively weak.