Hardwood lumber production took another major hit this fall from low log supplies, and while hard freezes will soon set in, there are no drivers in place for a quick recovery. That will work to stabilize prices (or at least slow the bleeding) for many items even though we are headed into the slowest buying period of the year.
Housing markets will improve slightly in 2012, but domestic demand for lumber, flooring, cabinets and furniture won’t increase much until 2013…even if lower production lends some feeling of strength in the coming year.
Strong October exports portend good business following Chinese New Year. We expect decent growth to Asia and Mexico in 2012 and no further erosion in European demand. Additional firming in the U.S. dollar should have a negligible impact on exports.
By recent standards, 2011 was a slow year for U.S. imports of lumber and moulding, but flooring and cabinet imports grew by 4% and 23%, respectively. Given their performance at the bottom of the residential construction market, imports of these products should grow faster than either domestic manufacturing or housing construction in 2012.
Within the next couple of years, however, domestic wood manufacturers will start to retake some of the market share lost to imports. Furniture plants are already winning some business back from China.
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