Many hardwood industry contacts voiced unease and worry about the future in conversations last week. However, present business conditions were not that bad. Some sawmills and concentration yards have experienced slower kiln-dried lumber sales in recent weeks, but many more have reported steady sales. Green mills had ready markets for most items.
Sellers frequently said that year-to-date 2012 sales have increased 5 to 10% over 2011. Reports about log inventories were mixed, with inventories in parts of the South lower than desired. Logging conditions in Northern areas were generally good, but deer hunting season slowed actual logging activity.
Concentration yards had steady sales and most had plenty of lumber, with only poplar hard to find. Distribution yards in most areas reported flat sales, with their inventories also in good shape, albeit at much lower levels than in the past. Business was “full blast and perfect” for one manufacturer of high-end, niche flooring products, and nearly as good for strip flooring and truck trailer flooring manufacturers. Demand for flooring-grade red oak and white oak was strong, with prices firming in most regions. Cabinet plants and their component suppliers said sales were a bit better.
Demand for railroad ties was strong and steady, as was demand for crane mat material. Board road sales were off, as shipments to Canada have slowed. Pallet cant sales were steady almost everywhere, and cant supplies were scarce in some areas like Texas.
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