Markets for many North American hardwood species lost momentum in the third quarter, and, despite subsequent improvements, feel less robust now than earlier in the year. Alder and Poplar, however, have been solid performers throughout, and will remain so into 2015.
Steadily increasing demand from Western distribution yards, cabinet manufacturers, and Chinese end-users have kept Alder sales booming. Demand from Western distributors will keep growing, as their business is improving and Alder is a staple. However, shipments to the cabinet sector will likely plateau due to sluggish home construction and minimal growth in remodeling. Chinese markets for Alder have slowed a bit in recent months. Although Vietnam, Canada and Mexico appear ready to absorb more Alder, further slowing in China would reduce overall demand since China accounts for 70% of U.S. Alder exports. Alder sales won’t go bust anytime soon; they just won’t be quite as booming.
Overall sales for distribution yards and millwork producers are holding steadier than for cabinet and flooring manufacturers, making Poplar less vulnerable to sales declines than the Oaks, Maples or Cherry in the near term. Poplar exports are on pace to set a record for the fifth straight year, and since shipments are spread broadly across Asia, Europe and Mexico, potential slowing in one or two markets would only have a limited impact. While Poplar producers should enjoy steady sales, increased production has bumped up inventories, which could, in turn, result in slightly softer prices.
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