Residential flooring manufacturers in the U.S. increased their lumber purchases, but several were not receiving as much as they wanted. Unfinished oak strip flooring prices have trended steadily higher since early spring, which some credit to gradually increasing home construction. The Weekly Hardwood Review prevailing price for 2¼ inch #1 Common red oak has climbed 20.1% since March 1. Furniture plants reported slow sales, as is normal for late July. Several smaller moulding manufacturers, and a few larger ones, have seen improved business of late.
Plus, the July doldrums continued for hardwood lumber sellers last week. “This July has been a typical July—hot, dry and with slow activity,” explained one sales manager; “I spent most of the month talking and not selling to customers.”
A seasonal decline in exports also gave the market a softer feel. While sales were sluggish, low production kept supply and demand for most items closely balanced and prices relatively firm for summer. Some sawmills were low on logs, but most were not worried because they don’t want large inventories at this time of year.
Demand was generally stronger for low-grade, industrial products like crane mats, railroad ties and pallet cants than for grade lumber. A high percentage of grade lumber sales were of mixed loads for quick shipment. Sales managers don’t expect business to improve until late August or early September, when buyers in North America and abroad usually replenish inventories.
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