The industry is slipping into its holiday/winter slowdown period. Sawmills indicated lumber sales were steady, but prices were too cheap to allow profits.
Sawmill closings will be longer than normal this month, according to those surveyed. Log supplies were mixed, with mills in many areas like West Virginia and eastern Kentucky quite short. However, lumber buyers, with few exceptions, had minimal problems finding adequate supplies.
Distribution yards reported moderate to slow demand, and they were working to increase margins to cover the cost of all of the sorting that many orders now demand.
Many yards have reduced the number of thicknesses, grades and species of lumber that they inventory. Flooring plants were operating at modest production levels, with most in “replacement only” buying mode. Mills reported scattered slowing of pallet cant and pallet cut-stock sales. Other industrial lumber items such as ties, board road and blocking were in good demand.
Export sales to Europe remained very quiet, while business to China was a bit stronger. Contacts expect demand for red oak to improve when exports pick up after the first of the year. China’s wood products manufacturers are increasingly producing for internal markets, while Vietnam remains export-oriented.
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