Producers Continue to Wait for Demand to Return But There Appears to Be No Catalyst in Sight

This is our second newsletter of July and our first full week after a very disjointed double-long weekend to start the month which had us all feeling a little confused regarding market sentiment and market direction.

We had commented that the expectation for the first week of July would be very quiet and to no one’s surprise, this was very much the case. The Canada Day long weekend, followed by the 4th of July, which spilled into the 5th of July for many of our U.S. customers, had the week feeling very fragmented and quiet. It felt like a good week for anyone who decided to take it off and enjoy the start of summer.

The culmination of that week on print saw most numbers down once again across the board. Again, this was no real surprise to most going into the week and closing it out.

As we started our current week, there was some talk about the market once we got past the holiday long weekend south of the border and the psychological effect this may have. The cold reality is that there are no markers that will indicate a shift in sentiment for the overall lumber market going forward through summer.

The lack of demand that we have seen permeate since the beginning of 2024 continues to be the topic of conversation. The larger macro issues are not changing. Whether it’s a conversation about overall affordability, interest rates and when we may start to see them decline on both sides of the border, or how inflation is impacting prices, the simple fact remains, there is a large need for housing in North America. The situation remains, however, that we are not seeing an engagement and an uptick in demand for a number of reasons to warrant a lot of excitement.

The flipside of this conversation continues to be supply. We are still having and hearing conversations about curtailments and something needing to happen to help balance this market. One interesting piece worth noting is that past conversations about curtailments always centered around Western SPF production as that was the predominant leader in the North American market. Over the last several years we talked about the rise in SYP and a lot of the attention now is based on the fact that this is the marketplace where we need to see some of these curtailments happen before we see a balance in this market.

Regardless of what areas we discuss, the fact remains, we are oversupplied and the market is continuing to be very competitive for the businesses out there. This is continuing to keep prices depressed and pushed down week by week, albeit lightly at this point.

We’ve commented for several weeks now that there is limited downside and that is still salient. We can’t keep pushing down further and further, so we’re not talking about big dips but there are simply too many people competing for the business and it’s keeping prices down. Those looking to purchase certainly have options, creating an aggressive market nonetheless.

The feeling is that as we move through July and August, unless something happens outside the normal course of business, it will be more of the same with an aggressive market, consumers buying hand to mouth to look after immediate needs feeling they can buy at the same numbers down or something cheaper. There is no sense of risk for an uptick in pricing.

One comment we’ll leave with here is that yet again, if and when we get to a point where the market shifts, the concern will be that it’s due to low inventories in the field overall. There could be a spike in prices caused by a potential stampede in purchasing. This scenario could also create a challenge to source material for prompt. This could be a long way out yet but it could be something that we are setting ourselves up for with a perfect storm as this challenging market moves ahead.


Supply & Distribution Update

Buyer apathy was widespread throughout last week due to the holiday-shortened week. New orders were confined to minimal immediate needs as pricing has fallen further into pre-pandemic territory.

Mills have reported negative financial impacts selling at current market levels. The biggest discounts we have seen, sometimes into double digits, have come from items that mills are working on to alleviate buildups.

The lumber market remains soft, and supply continues to outpace demand. Mill curtailments and production pullbacks have done little to nothing to affect the current lumber market price or the oversupply of lumber. Significant demand would be required before seeing any change.

Lacklustre sales out of distribution have led to many inventory yards with idle capacity. While customers continue to run thin inventories, buyers remain in the market looking for the lowest numbers. Most lumber yards have the capacity to take on full truckload volumes. Buyers continue to weigh their options between LTL purchases that have extra costs attached to them or full truckload purchases that may come at a cheaper price but have more volume than required.

Buyers are in a unique market right now. Mills and other lumber providers want to move product while there are many different options/substitutes available at different price levels being offered to them for their choosing. It is highly competitive and most areas of the supply chain are all feeling the pressures.

There are no disruptions in transportation to report. The rail strike talks remain lingering with no agreements being reached but do not impose any immediate threat.

Transportation conditions are ideal this time of year and lead times continue to improve. Trucking availability continues to be ample across North America. Rates and fuel surcharges remain flat giving us an indication that the cost of transportation has now hit a bottom since the pandemic. Many transportation providers continue to struggle to keep their wheels turning in their highly competitive market.

We strive to keep our core carriers busy but fall short some weeks. Multiple providers call every day looking to be added to our distribution list but as we struggle to fill our core carriers, new providers are not needed.

Contact CEWP Today


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Dimensional Lumber

Summary

The dimensional market was fairly quiet through last week’s shortened business period due to the holiday long weekends. As we look toward this week, we continue to see a lacklustre demand overall across most dimensions.

Some comments regarding Eastern supply pushing into some of the central markets at fairly aggressive levels are causing some questions about whether Western supply can push further east. This is causing more pain for those considering how to adequately price product.

We continue to see a range in pricing, whether you’re looking at actual print levels, some of the larger national mills and how they’re pricing off lists, or regional mills still pricing above those levels trying to hold to those low-level thresholds they need to stay above.

There seems to be a buildup of material at different mill levels. Some mills are content to try and hold, unwilling to move on numbers. Others are looking to quietly move off loads here and there, trying to balance lower turns with their needs for shipping and cash flow. It’s much the same that we’ve seen for quite some time now.

2x4

Print for 2x4 was off across most lengths in the low double digits and some single digits. Overall, there appears to be more downside pressure on print.

Again, we are seeing some mills react to this by lowering their ask prices slightly. Others are holding firm to their levels. It becomes a question of what types of material you’re looking at, the quality, and your time frame for taking delivery.

There is relative price stability with no real upside push at this point. There is, however, minimal downside as mostly taking firm counters to mills is where consumers are having success with putting on business at the numbers they are hoping to attain.

2x6

It was a very similar print for 2x6 as it was for 4”. Some low double-digit and mostly single-digit downside pressure on print was seen. Again, there continues to be reasonable access to material, both on the national and regional levels.

Pricing spreads continue, and much like 4”, it’s on a case-by-case basis. Consumers certainly have options and distribution and wholesale continues to try to keep their positions lean as the battle for scarce business wages on.

2x8

We saw 8” flat across the board last week, which has been the case for a number of weeks. There seems to be a bit more balance in the 2x8 market.

There wasn’t a tremendous amount of new business takeaway seen, so again, we’re falling back on the fact that supply is certainly better balanced here.

We feel this will continue to be the case, which if we do see any uptick in takeaway, could tighten 2x8 quicker than some might anticipate.

2x10

The week in 2x10 saw it down much like 4” and 6”. There was a little bit more balance to the 10” market but it was not immune to the overall factors that we’re facing.

There was some softness in 2x10, however, we are seeing a little bit available on mill lists. Mills are probably willing to listen a bit more right now, but again, the buildup shouldn’t be as detrimental as seen in 4” and 6”.

2x12

In 2x12, it was flat on print for the week in a balanced market. It continues to see a real push for demand, there is no change in that, and we’re certainly not seeing any additional 2x12 coming on the market to change it either.


Studs

This week, there was continued tepid interest in studs, owing in part to the shortened work week. Prices have settled in over the last two weeks, but mills have still been taking strong counters into consideration with items that are continuing to accumulate.

Stud purchases have remained somewhat steady week after week, driven by the widening gap in pricing and a growing urgency to fulfill immediate inventory needs that have been neglected for weeks. However, overall most buyers remain cautious, focusing mainly on covering their short-term, prompt needs. Many continue to lean into mixed load options and rely on prompt distribution where available.

Most buyers remain convinced that prices have not yet hit their lowest point and have expressed patience, holding out for deeper discounts. Conversely, others see an opportunity in the current market, buying in anticipation of a potential upturn.

Regardless of one's position this week, it's likely that the ever-present subdued and hesitant outlook will continue to set the prevailing market tone.


Treated Lumber

The treated market continues to be a little more of a bright spot. Commentary from last week was that yet again, we are seeing reasonable takeaway at the retail and contractor yard levels. Mills are replenishing into those yards. Some items are moving in a little slower than some would like.

It looks like the treated season is well underway. We anticipate a continuation at the current pace but a significant uptick in takeaway is not expected. The slowdown shouldn’t start to appear for a number of months. Stability in treated is one shining light in a market that otherwise continues to toil.


Southern Yellow Pine

SYP is trying to find its footing this week on the heels of a U.S. holiday that saw many out of the office for the week starting mid-day Wednesday. Tallies seem readily available on all widths.

Once again, 10” remains a stronger item. Mild concessions on price were seen, however, it appears that overall demand is playing a larger part than price objection. In many cases, SYP MSR remains a value to similar grades in other species. Should mills drop prices to entice more orders? It doesn’t seem that the result will be a surge in takeaway and thus the need to replenish. Mills will just make less on what they do sell, given the existing demand.

With that said, mills made moves to clear builds of certain items and balance on-ground inventories. Many were down for extended holiday breaks.


MSR Lumber

With both Canadian and U.S. holidays last week, MSR sales were quite sluggish. Mills continued to discount material for prompt shipment but are trying to hold firm on material that is out more than 2 weeks as they believe prices will start to come up over that time frame.

Curtailments that were done a few weeks ago are now starting to show limited availability on some items. We’re seeing 2x6 MSR continue to trade relatively strong. In fact, over the past couple of weeks, the price of 2x6 2100 has actually increased. This has been the only MSR item that we have seen an increase in price over the past month. Although 2x8 MSR pricing hasn’t increased, there are still only a few producers and availability has been tight.

Truss manufacturers have been holding quite light inventories and most are only purchasing once they have POs in hand. When they do, prompt shipment is usually required. Because of this, we have been quite busy out of our inventory locations with LTL or mixed truckload shipments. We don’t expect that to change until manufacturers can’t get the material they need covered.

Please don’t hesitate to call or email with any questions on availability as the situation can change quickly.

Contact Us for Up-to-Date Pricing & Availability


Douglas Fir & Larch MSR

There has been little change in DFL MSR market activity leading up to and on the heels of the July 4th long weekend as interest remained lacklustre and prices continued to slip.

The premium held by DFL MSR against #2&btr continues to erode on some items as 2x4 1800 & 2400 dipped -$20 and -$10 respectively on the week while 2x6 Select Struct 1800 & 2400 once again set new yearly lows. The softness carried on in 2x8 & 2x10 MSR as demand remains weak and results from inter-species competition, although production and availability of wides remain modest.

While curtailments and year-low prices have yet to coax the market into action, options on 2x6 1800 & 2400 remain notably thin and there are holes forming on some lengths mill-to mill. Mill order files on most DFL MSR items are currently at prompt to 3 weeks.

It is once again worth being aware that some Canadian mills have begun to decline quoting material with destinations into the US. They are directing their fibre into the Canadian market in preparation for the proposed increases in countervailing duties on exported Canadian lumber. This will further impact the volume of Canadian fibre available into the US market. These duties are set to take effect in early August.

While demand remains below anyone’s comfort level, mills and builders alike, the market continues to present opportunities to source at advantageous prices while availability out of mills is tightening on some bread-and-butter items. We continue to suggest focusing on your short-term and frequent needs while keeping an eye out for deals further out to both capture current value and ensure coverage through the summer.


Panel Products

Plywood

The plywood market remains relatively soft. What we’ve seen is limited sales over the past couple of weeks where most mills pushed order files into the week of the 22nd and trying to push into the last week of July, building up a slight file.

Print was flat last week after some downside pressure in the week prior. It seems like most consumers are purchasing for their immediate needs keeping their inventories relatively low.

Contract loads appear to be meeting most demand and as we've noted, at these price levels we don’t see a tremendous amount of downside pressure on plywood. There have been some attempts to try to push numbers down below this, but mills have been pushing back against this situation.

The upside potential in plywood still remains as inventories in the field seem light. However, this uptick in demand has to materialize in a meaningful way for this to happen and much like the rest of the market, we are not seeing it come together yet.

OSB

OSB print was flat to finish last week. Inventories still remain a little tighter when speaking to mills. Most mills are maintaining a bit of an order file and are quoting some cash business slightly above print levels.

There were reports that one mill in particular was willing to put together some business below print levels perhaps just to clear out a little prompt-moving material.

The OSB situation remains quite interesting as we’re not seeing a huge level of demand out there. Yet, the mills seem to be able to hold pricing relatively stable and report a decent order file.

It looks like OSB most likely doesn’t have a lot of upside potential in the short term. Expect stability at best although some downside pressure on print wouldn’t surprise us to finish the week.


Market Experts

Lumber is what we do! Our traders are in the market all day, every day. Let us share our knowledge with you, if you have any questions, please give us a call.

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