Hardwood lumber sales in the U.S. remain slow, with many sawmills and concentration yards building inventories. U.S. hardwood shipments to Canada have also slowed due to the rising value of the U.S. dollar. Export inquiries from China and other Asian markets are steady, but some buyers are still reluctant to pull the trigger. Most exporters expect increased orders in the next few weeks. Prices for Ash lumber are firm to rising in most regions, while Hard Maple prices are softening.
Difficult Red Oak markets remain a main topic of conversation in the hardwood industry, particularly low demand from the flooring sector. Flooring manufacturers have slowed incoming lumber shipments—a large percentage of which are Red Oak—and some have stuck firmly to their promise not to buy any lumber in February. Consequently, warehouses have filled up with common-grade Red Oak. It comes down to slower strip flooring sales, which have now forced production slowdowns at many plants. With flooring lumber markets full and oil industry demand for crane mats and board road stalled, enough sawmills are cutting more railroad ties to put pressure on tie prices, even with demand still growing for crossties and long switchties.
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