In January 2012—the latest month for which trade data are available—U.S. hardwood lumber exports totaled 107.8 million board feet, the second highest January volume on record, trailing 2006 by just 0.9%.
Shipments increased to 10 of the top 11 foreign destinations relatively to January 2011. In March, about twice as many North American contacts reported increasing exports as reported decreasing exports, although more than half said exports were steady.
Three-quarters of exporters said their March sales to China either rose or held steady compared to February. Contacts variously attributed China’s increased purchasing to increased domestic orders for Chinese-made goods or to depleted Chinese lumber inventories.
January 2012 exports to China were 25% higher than in January 2011. With sales rapidly improving, hardwood lumber shipments to China in 2012 could well surpass 2011’s record levels. Likewise, hardwood lumber shipments to Vietnam in January were 39% stronger than any January in history, and nearly at record levels for any month.
Mexican markets were also busier in March compared to February. Reduced business activity in Italy—the largest European market for U.S. hardwoods—and slow shipments to other Mediterranean countries kept overall European purchasing relatively low in March. Over 70% of North American exporters reported slower exports to Southern Europe in March, while only 33% said exports declined to Northern Europe.
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