Demand is on Summer Vacation While Producers Wait for it to Return, Leaving the Market to Ponder Supply Disruption

Summer has certainly arrived, as we are now into July. However, it’s safe to say the lumber market still hasn’t found its footing.

We seem to be mired in this depressed market and week after week, it feels like yet another disappointment as demand continues to flounder and supply is moving along at an outstripped pace.

We saw a tepid market throughout all of last week. Pricing was pushed down to start the week from the wholesale and distribution community. As the days went on, we could tell that it was going to be yet another situation where although mills were hoping to try to hold firm, any business that came together was due to pricing concessions being made.

The national mills are still holding excess inventory and although some started to pull back on their lists, perhaps not showing quite as much of their positions, it remained much the same. There was material readily available across most species, across most products, and across most regions. Any customers that were looking to purchase took advantage of the mills’ weakened position in which they found themselves.

Regional mills were much the same. There were some comments from smaller mills that felt they were not willing to continue selling at these low levels and they pulled off the market for the time being. However, the fact remains that they may have to come back to move material as they search for liquidity while the market continues to give nothing back in terms of increased demand.

News continues to be less than positive in the overall marketplace with negative housing starts coming out and renewed concerns about interest rates and affordability keeping this market depressed.

We feel that as we move into the summer months it becomes more and more challenging for demand to engage in a meaningful way. Again, it seems like the only solution to find balance in this marketplace is going to be supply-side disruption. That is the conversation taking place at mills and in the overall market. Something has to give, which is what we keep hearing over and over again.

At this point in time, it feels like we will begin our shortened week after the Canada Day long weekend and as we head toward the 4th of July with much the same feeling. A pretty quiet week is anticipated as the 4th of July lands on Thursday and it’s likely many will be taking Friday off as well to extend this long weekend.

Perhaps we will start to see something turn after we get past the U.S. long weekend. There’s a certain psychological factor that takes place south of the border regarding this time period. Time will tell whether this is going to come together or not.


Supply & Distribution Update

Sales were unchanged from the pace of recent weeks, and most prices continued to drift lower. Mills have reported selling at near or break-even levels while turning down the steepest of counters but encouraging firm offers. These continue to be symptoms of an oversupplied market.

There is very little urgency in the market today due to buyers being able to source what they need when they need it. Producers continue to ramp back on production and operate with less labour but not announcing any new curtailments or shutdowns. A significant rise in demand will need to occur before we see any major changes in the supply in the market.

Sales out of distribution remain sluggish and highly competitive. Many centres are busy because of Canada Day interfering with a full day of shipping. We can expect a hectic few days following this long weekend before shipping returns to normal.

Most distribution centres should be back to regular availability by the end of the week. I do not see this interfering with day-to-day trading as many lumber yards are well stocked and we are starting to see customers looking to lighten their inventories.

Transportation in the supply chain remains the bright star. Truck availability is abundant across North America. Rates and fuel surcharges have remained relatively flat over the past couple of months. The Canadian rail transportation strike is still looming, but action is not imminent at this point, pending a settlement.

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U.S. Construction Spending Unexpectedly Falls in May

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Although construction spending saw an increase of 6.4% in May year-over-year, there was a decline from April of this year across the board as mortgage rates in the U.S. rose.

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B.C.'s Forest Cutting Permit Process Handcuffing Industry, Says Lheidli T'enneh, Simpcw Chiefs

Ted Clarke - Prince George Citizen

First Nations in the Prince George area are bringing attention to the need for more control over permitting in the region. As it stands, the government process is causing delays in permit approvals which is seen as the primary factor to mills closing down.

“They didn’t come to us about permitting. They didn’t talk to us in here the North about old growth. They’re focusing on Vancouver and Victoria and the nations down there. Up here we have no say, which is totally wrong. This is forestry country, which it has been forever, and we should have a say.

“Mills are shutting down and we need to find an economy, which is forestry, to keep the North going.”

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Lumber Prices Are Plunging. Blame the Record Drop in U.S. Housing Affordability and a Post-Pandemic Double Bubble ‘Hangover’

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Spot lumber prices have taken a deep dive to 75% off their May 2021 record highs, sitting at just $366 this week. The past 90 days have seen a very dramatic drop on the July contract.

According to experts, this move down in lumber prices has been caused by housing affordability and a drop off in home renovations leading to a decline in lumber demand.

“Housing affordability is just really offsides right now,” says Dustin Jalbert, a senior economist who leads Fastmarkets’ Wood Products team. “It's one of the least affordable times to buy a house in decades and the pool of qualified buyers is starting to kind of dwindle a bit, too. So high interest rates eventually do start to bite.”

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Railway Workers at CN, CPKC Vote to Reauthorize Strike But Open to Federal Mediation, Union Says

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While both sides are preparing for the worst, they are also both willing to continue negotiating. CN and CPKC union members have overwhelmingly voted to strike but the action is not imminent at this point pending a settlement.

"We know our supply chain stakeholders want certainty regarding expected timing of a CIRB decision and potential work stoppage, however, it remains unclear when the CIRB will issue a decision," said the statement.

A legal position to strike will likely not be at hand until at least mid- to late-July.

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Dimensional Lumber

Summary

The dimensional market continues to struggle. We saw yet another negative print across the board for all species and all dimensions.

Pricing doesn't seem to be what’s holding back takeaway. Value at these levels is certainly apparent. We just continue to see that with regard to product, there is not enough takeaway to balance this dimensional market overall. It’s apparent as we see downside pressure on print and ask levels each week come off, it doesn’t seem to spur on any activity.

2x4

It was quite a strong downside print again for 2x4 this past week with 8’ and 16’ leading the way showing deep double-digit discounts. However, everything was really down.

The bleeding continues and the frustration heard from the mills is palpable as they simply keep saying they can’t continue to drive this market down but are struggling to find a reason to get excited about 2x4’s chances heading into July.

2x6

In 2x6 we saw another down week as well, although it wasn’t quite as pronounced. Double-digit decreases in 10’, 12’, and 14’, and medium single-digit declines in the rest permeated the week.

Again, in a similar situation to what has been seen over the past several weeks, the material is there if you need it and there’s plenty of competition for the business. We anticipate this to remain the case.

2x8 & 2x10

With 8” and 10” we’ve commented for some time now that they’ve been a bit more stale on the market. Once again, this week was no different.

We saw some downside pressure on 2x8 in 12’ and 14’, as well as 18s and 20s.

In 2x10 there was negative pressure, albeit much light across all lengths.

It’s not that surprising as they can’t continue to hold completely but again, there is much less downside pressure, which we see persisting.

2x12

As has been the case lately, 2x12 was once again flat for another week showing a balanced market overall with limited takeaway. Mills are content to balance the market on 12”.


Studs

Softer stud demand endured this week, as downward pricing trends again permeated the market. In the last few weeks, mills had become more staunch in trying to hold to their established pricing. However, demand quickly subsided and mills are again entertaining counters in a bid to find new interest and bolster their order files further into July.

Stud purchases have been consistent week to week, as many buyers are encouraged by the deepening gap in pricing and an evident need to cover prompt requirements that have long been left unfulfilled. Though overall, most purchasers continue to remain very cautious and reluctant to cover much more than only their near-term needs. Most continue to lean heavily into mixed load offerings where available, and distribution to cover their fill-in requirements. With prompt options available throughout mill lists, production continues to outpace demand.

Many purchasers are adamant we have not seen the bottom and hope to see deeper discounts yet. Meanwhile, others remain undaunted by further drops, see an opportunity and continue to buy into the dip, expecting a seasonal buy-in might develop soon enough.

Regardless of your stance this week, we can surely expect quiet and indecisive demand will again be the prevailing tone throughout this shortened work week.


Treated Lumber

The treated market continues to be one that most are commenting is doing better than others. There is not much to add this week as takeaway continues to be reasonable.

Mills are replenishing at a bit better pace and there are still reports that some items are a little more difficult to source which may be helping to hold things up.

We see treated following this same pattern as we move through July.


Southern Yellow Pine

SYP MSR saw a slip in pricing across most widths, save for 10”. A short week in the U.S. will be a temporary relief as production continues to outpace demand. Mills may be looking to extend a little downtime with the holiday looming. Availability remains quite good as mills continue to work to clear prompt/floor stock.


MSR Lumber

Modest levels of market activity in SPF MSR carried through to the preceding week, as purchasers focused on primarily prompt needs.

It remained a challenge to source 2x6 1650 with many mills either off the market or quoting shipment 3 weeks out or more. Conversely, 2x6 2100 saw slightly better availability with ship dates 2 to 3 weeks out; though availability did begin to tighten as the week concluded.

Items in 2x4 MSR remained more widely available with most mills offering prompt deliveries while being open to price negotiation. As they held near mill asks, 2x4 1650 & 2100 loads with healthy volumes of 18s and 20s saw broad availability. Downward pricing pressure was focused on 2x4 MSR, both 2x4 1650 & 2100 slipped -$15/m on weekly print.

Our advice is to remain flexible with your tallies as deals and value can be found if you’re open to working with what mills are showing for prompt shipment. Feel free to contact anyone at CEWP via phone or email for pricing and availability inquiries.

Contact Us for Up-to-Date Pricing & Availability


Douglas Fir & Larch MSR

Little change has been seen in the DFL MSR market week over week as interest remained lacklustre and prices continued to slip. As we head into an abbreviated work week on both sides of the 49th parallel, any anticipation of a turnaround in the short term is dim.

The premium held by DFL MSR against #2&btr continued to erode as 2x4 1800 & 2400 dipped -$20 and -$25 respectively on the week, and 2x6 Select Struct, 1800 & 2400 once again set new yearly lows. The softness seen in 2x8 & 2x10 MSR in previous weeks carried through as demand remains modest resulting from ongoing inter-species competition.

A notable tightening in availability as a result of ongoing curtailments has been seen, chiefly in 2x6 1800 & 2400 and 2x4 & 2x6 longs. While limited availability did little to slow price depreciation, we do see the potential for that to change as we work our way through the summer.

An important point of interest, some Canadian mills have begun to decline to quote material with destinations into the U.S. and are directing their interest toward further developing the Canadian market in preparation for the proposed increases in countervailing duties on exported Canadian lumber which are due to take effect in early August.

Despite the dull tone of the market, it continues to present opportunities to source upcoming needs with mills willing to find saleable pricing, easing the potential of further downside. There is a growing likelihood of availability becoming significantly constrained through the summer despite limited market activity.


Panel Products

Plywood

Moderate inquiry persisted on plywood, albeit most takeaway seen in the West was LTL volumes in the back half of last week. Truckload business had mostly been covered the week prior when mills were willing to take on more of a discount on block business.

After a small dip on random lengths print last week, numbers today are at the lowest point we have seen since June of 2023. Many buyers have filled positions a little further out at these levels citing the cost is making sense as we see the bottom forming.

Order files are out until the week of July 15th, with one Western mill taking 2 weeks of downtime. Select grade material is essentially non-existent for quick ship and mills have commented availability for selects will remain very tight in the short term with little to no availability on cash offers.

OSB

OSB inquiry also saw an increase last week and to start this week. Random lengths printed down modestly and didn't see the heftier chunks as we had seen in previous weeks as mills had somewhat firmed south of the border.

Most mills in Western Canada remain off the market on cash offerings and those that are quoting are doing so into late July. The majority of the business on the Canadian side is being covered by contract offerings on a range of numbers with very little to no cash deals being had due to low volumes on takeaway.


Available Materials

Please keep in mind that we have well-priced weekly lumber, plywood and OSB contracts. We also have fully stocked inventories with LTL options to cover any requirements.

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