Market Recap: RISI Crow's Construction Materials Cost Index

A price index of lumber and panels used in actual construction for Jan. 10, 2014

*Western - regional species perimeter foundation; Southern - regional species slab construction.

Crow's Market Recap -- A condensed recap of the market conditions for the major North American softwood lumber and panel products as reported in Crow's Weekly Market Report. 

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Lumber: Traders continued to sell off their positions in the SPF lumber market at discounts to mill prices. Meanwhile, producers showed little urgency to sell at lower prices, able to maintain lead times of a week or two. Modest gains in futures early were trumped by a stronger move Thursday, which brought more buyers into the market. Frigid weather engulfing much of the eastern U.S. limited sales at Southern Pine lumber mills. Difficulties loading and shipping trucks and railcars slowed deliveries. Sawmills struggled to run, forcing several shutdowns early. As the “polar vortex” lifted, mills started back up at midweek. Buyers needing to replenish inventories or plug holes stepped up to buy solid volumes of Coastal species lumber. Traders quoted and sold significant volumes for jobs. Inland species lumber producers reported an increase in incoming phone calls from customers checking price and availability, but sales volumes were light in comparison to call volumes. Radiata Pine sales were light, as were offerings. Ponderosa Pine industrials buyers took a wait and see attitude towards making more purchases at this time. Good mill order files and limited mill inventories kept producers in the driver’s seat. Although the market for Ponderosa Pine boards was quieter than in weeks past, producers reported good sales activity for #3 Commons. Buyers were not in a panic to buy but most covered what they needed at mill asking prices. Eastern White Pine producers reported better business this week. Most sales were for small volumes. The primary concern in the Western Red Cedar market continues to be a perception of a lack of fiber to go around when spring approaches. 

Panels: Although snow was still on the ground, and freezing temperatures were still around in many regions, OSB buyers began to look at spring needs. Western markets were more active than their eastern counterparts. Producers reported sales in the North Central and Mid Atlantic regions at published levels or slightly higher. Southern Pine plywood mills managed to move their order files out into the week of Jan. 20, which helped keep prices near the prior week’s levels. Wholesalers looked to purchase, having depleted their positions, but did not see the deals needed to take on significant volumes. Western Fir plywood producers struggled to sell production, leaving order files thin and, subsequently, prices susceptible to discounts. Producers lowered quotes early, trying to move prompt wood into the system, and remained at those reduced levels. The Canadian plywood market remained subdued as heavy weather in many areas continued to keep buyers more focused on freezing pipes and jump-starting forklifts than buying plywood. When their attention did return to buying, they found mills with order files as far out as Feb. 3 and firm prices. Particleboard and MDF sales activity varied from mill to mill, indicating steady demand or modest improvements in volumes sold, depending on the producer. More customers returned to the market after extended holiday vacations.

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