The usual, seasonal pattern of higher foreign demand for North American hardwoods in October did not materialize this year. Instead, buyers in most countries remained cautious, purchasing only enough lumber and logs to meet their immediate needs. Fifteen times as many foreign buyers reported reduced U.S. hardwood lumber purchasing in October (compared to September) as reported increased purchasing. Similarly, three times as many North American sellers reported reduced exports as reported increased exports. Some sellers received sizeable orders for Red Oak as prices began to level off, but they were the exceptions, not the rule.
One exporter to Europe reported a “noticeable drop in orders and inquiries.” Another commented, “The feeling is very bad among our customers.” A third — just back from Europe — said inventory levels were the lowest he had seen in over 25 years. Signs of life were evident in North American hardwood lumber sales to China, though the majority of our Asian contacts indicated their countries’ economic activity and their companies’ purchasing were both slower over the last 30 days. One Chinese agent cautioned, “Most Chinese factories and distributors have cash flow problems, so they will be working hard to reduce inventories to a safe level.”
Andy Johnson is the Southern Regional Editor for Hardwood Publishing Co.
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