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Most North American hardwood exporters and international buyers reported reduced trade in December. Holidays and economic concerns kept European markets quiet, while the upcoming Chinese New Year curtailed shipments to the Far East.
Sellers noted intense competition for orders in almost every market, although many held prices firm in the belief that they have reached bottom and will soon be rising.
“There are conflicting views about market trends,” explained one contact. “Buyers still expect to push prices down, and suppliers are pushing right back.” Supplies do appear to be tightening, with several exporters reporting that lower production and slower kiln turns have started to limit sales.
U.S. hardwood lumber exports reached a five-month high of 105.6 million board feet (MMBF) in October 2011, the latest month for which data are available.
Shipments passed the one billion board foot mark in just 10 months this year; it took 11 months in 2010. U.S. hardwood logs exports totaled 121,700 meters³ in October 2011, down 17% from October 2010.
This was a slight improvement from year-on-year performances during July, August and September 2011, when log exports lagged the same months in 2010 by 30%, 21% and 27%, respectively.