Production of both hard maple and soft maple should pick up over the next two months as freezing weather firms up northern woodlands. Pricing trends for the two species will diverge, however, because one is growing in popularity and the other is not. Painted cabinets and furniture are in fashion, so soft maple markets should be able to absorb additional production with little impact to prices. Unlike soft maple, demand has played almost no role in firming up hard maple prices over the last few months. As production grows, look for some softening in hard maple prices.
Red oak shipments to North American manufacturers of cabinets, truck trailer flooring, furniture, moulding and wood components are not likely to increased during Q1 2012. Lower overall purchases of red oak by U.S. residential flooring plants will easily offset a small uptick in demand from their Canadian counterparts who can’t find lumber locally due to sawmill closures. Stronger exports to the Far East and Mexico will stabilize and then slowly lift 4/4 #1/Btr red oak prices late in Q1. (Speculative purchasing by concentration yards is already starting to bolster green prices.) red oak producers will have to further discount prices to move KD 4/4 #2 com red oak, supplies of which remain quite large.
Poplar has been a strong performer both domestically and internationally during the last couple of months. Poplar demand is expanding primarily because it is a relatively low-cost, easy-to-use wood in an era of growing cost-consciousness. Unlike past poplar upturns, mills haven’t been able to quickly ramp up production, so prices continue to firm up. We expect additional gains in FAS/1F poplar demand and pricing. Markets for #1 and #2 com poplar haven’t heated up as much as for FAS/1F, but prices should edge higher as Chinese, Vietnamese and Mexican buyers place more orders.
Have something to say? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below.