Madison’s Reporter: Lumber prices drop as September marches on
September 22, 2022 | 12:19 pm CDT

It is normal for this time of year for North American construction framing dimension softwood lumber prices to be falling, as the bulk of main home building activity is finished for the season, according to Madison's Lumber Reporter.

There are times when the weather is good so a bump in Do-It-Yourself and home remodeling brings an increase in demand at retailers, potentially propping up prices slightly. Of course, the past two years have not been normal and it is still unknown if the usual seasonal cycle of real estate and home building will return this year. For now, the benchmark lumber prices have waffled somewhat over the past couple of months.

Correcting downward as expected following Labor Day, for the week ending Sept. 9, 2022, the price of benchmark softwood lumber item Western Spruce-Pine-Fir 2×4 #2&Btr KD (RL) was $520 mfbm, said weekly forest products industry price guide newsletter Madison’s Lumber Reporter. This is down by -$34, or -6% from the previous week when it was $520, and is down by -$83, or -14%, from one month ago when it was $603.

Transactions often took place considerably below print levels as primary, and secondary suppliers competed for limited business.

Traders of Western S-P-F commodities in the United States remained unsure about the direction of the market after a puzzling post-Labor Day week. Buyers showed no more urgency than they did through August, despite their extremely light inventories. As one veteran player noted, it seemed like everyone was waiting for everyone else to make the first move.

“Confusion and trepidation were the watchwords in the North American lumber market as the post-Labor Day litmus test was unclear as yet.” — according to the report.

Confusion and trepidation were the watchwords in the North American lumber market at large, and Western S-P-F  was no exception. Scattered reports came in from motivated buyers of substantial discounts at the sawmill level. Meanwhile, the distribution network appeared to be adequately supplied for the moment, with customers turning to secondaries when they needed quick shipment – albeit at firmer prices. Transportation has been a low-key bright spot lately, with relatively smooth delivery times and decreasing freight rates as fuel prices continue to stabilize and even drop in some regions.

“Demand for green Douglas-fir was very slow again, dashing the hopes of suppliers who looked forward to September as a potential jumping-off point to better business. Buyers refused to purchase more than they needed. Resultant sales were sluggish, to say the least,” according to the report.

Compared to the same week last year, when it was $480 mfbm, the price of Western Spruce-Pine-Fir 2×4 #2&Btr KD (RL) for the week ending Sept. 9, 2022, was up by +$40, or +8%. Compared to two years ago when it was $960, that week’s price is down by -$440, or -46%.

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Larry Adams | Editor

Larry Adams is a Chicago-based writer and editor who writes about how things get done. A former wire service and community newspaper reporter, Larry is an award-winning writer with more than three decades of experience. In addition to writing about woodworking, he has covered science, metrology, metalworking, industrial design, quality control, imaging, Swiss and micromanufacturing . He was previously a Tabbie Award winner for his coverage of nano-based coatings technology for the automotive industry. Larry volunteers for the historic preservation group, the Kalo Foundation/Ianelli Studios, and the science-based group, Chicago Council on Science and Technology (C2ST).