The combination of improving domestic sales, robust exports and sharply higher prices had many hardwood lumber sellers sounding thankful heading into the long Thanksgiving weekend.
A sawmill owner in New England described business as so “spectacular” that kiln-dried inventories “dropped like a rock” during a temporary shutdown to install new equipment. An export wholesaler said that “lumber is gone within two days” of offering it out, and a salesman at a Southern mill noted, “Exports to China have never been better.”
Tight lumber supplies and rapidly rising prices for logs and lumber evoked a mix of reactions from sawmill and concentration yard contacts. One mill owner said the current market reminded him of the 1990s, when rising lumber prices offset rising log prices and “it all worked out.”
However, the sales manager for a concentration yard was nervous: “The current market is like holding a winning lottery ticket in one hand and a stick of dynamite in the other.”
The Weekly Hardwood Review Leading Hardwood Demand Indicator (LHDI)—a forecast of future demand for U.S. hardwood lumber based on residential and commercial construction, import/export trends, inflation levels, and job markets—is projected to trend down to 111.1 in January from the current 119.2 (January 2013=100), as seasonally slow U.S. construction activity more than offsets strong exports to Asia and Mexico.
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