Signs suggest the U.S. and Canadian housing markets might finally be on the mend. Hardwood lumber imports early in 2012 are on par with last year, but the values of these imported species are higher, a potential sign that high-end durable goods buyers are coming back into the game as well.
Increasing home sales could give the flooring sector a much-needed boost, though green lumber prices and flooring imports are also on the rise.
Higher fuel costs will remain a drag on the economic rebound, however, impacting both consumer sentiment and discretionary consumer spending. Also, the European Union’s economic unrest will likewise drag global economic recovery. Although increased Asian activity will certainly help North American hardwood exports in 2012—and China is poised to purchase record volumes—a fiscally healthy Europe is a much-needed key to sustainably strong global hardwood markets that won’t materialize this year.
Lumber prices will generally firm for another month, before the additional production now flowing through sawmills dumps from dry kilns and into the market. We are optimistic that China will absorb much of the additional volume, but they’ll fight for lower prices as supplies improve.
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