The New Year Has Been Flat and Steady Through the First Month But it Won’t Take Much to See the Market Strengthen

We’ve already come to the end of January and as we look back, the month has been very similar from beginning to end. There is a feeling of general apathy from consumers that has continued as there hasn’t been a sense of urgency on the part of buyers due to a lack of significant takeaway to start the year.

The sluggish pace of buying was what we saw coming out of the gate. There were a few occasions when we felt there might be a little bit of an uptick but it was quickly tamped down. We’ve seen a very similar tone week after week throughout the month.

Print has continued to soften. Last week’s print was relatively flat overall with a mix of straight-length numbers with some moving up a little and some down a little. The overall averages, however, are pointing to a flat and disinterested market regarding takeaway.

At the same time, we don’t want to sound overly negative as the supply side continues to feel, even with this disinterested market, quite stable. We continue to see mills not build up significant inventories, even in the face of uninspired sales and takeaway. The continued curtailment and pullback of supply have certainly had the impact that was hoped for over the last several months.

We continue to see a relative balance overall and at this point, it does feel like downside risk is relatively limited. There could be a bit of short-term movement in numbers, however, much of this could be attributed to some position-taking by wholesale and distribution.

Although we don’t see a real surge in demand taking place in the near term, we still believe that it won’t take much of a relative uptick in demand for the market to strengthen. Mills will once again not be shy to firm up relatively quickly once that happens.

Look for flat pricing with some modest downside in the near term but overall moderate stability is still what we feel as we move into February.


Supply & Distribution Update

Pricing has by and large maintained the same levels as previous weeks. Sporadic buying has occurred despite the lack of upward price movement. Mills have been firm on their offerings with few discounts available compared to previous weeks.

The announcement of West Fraser closing their Fraser Lake mill, impacting approximately 175 employees and taking roughly 160 million board feet off of West Fraser's Canadian lumber capacity, has had little discernible effect on the market. Although supply seems to be relatively in line with demand, buyers continue to work through previous purchases and remain skeptical about the direction of the market.

Most buying has been reduced to fulfilling 1-3 week needs while buyers do not look to speculate on volume purchases just yet. While the supply in the market remains healthy, we will continue to see short-term needs being filled while product is readily available for prompt shipment.

As the direction of the market continues to perplex purchasers, distribution operates at steady levels. Buyers continue to look at filling inventory holes and cover any near-term needs.

As the weather continues to improve, so does the ease of transportation. Ideal road conditions help improve lead times. During this time, prompt deliveries obtain purchases from customers for their ideal delivery schedule. The industry itself remains highly competitive amongst all modes of transportation.

Fuel pricing has had little effect on organizations as it remains relatively flat. It is paying off for those who provide high levels of service with minimal transportation disruptions through repeat customers and strengthening relationships. In this highly competitive market, it is imperative to provide the best services possible as other organizations are hungry for business.

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News We Are Following

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U.S. Timber and Lumber Prices to Hold Steady for Three to Six Months

Lesprom

According to Scott Reaves, Chief Operations Officer and Director of Forest Operations at Domain Timber Advisors, we can anticipate the continuation of the relatively flat market we’ve experienced for timber and lumber prices through the first half of 2024.

The ongoing economic downturn, moderately subdued housing starts thanks to higher interest rates, regular market cycles, seasonal weather patterns, and possibly increasingly strict lending practices are all affecting the market.

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Valuable Timber Left to Waste in Wake of B.C. Wildfires

Nelson Bennett - BIV

There is a large amount of timber going to waste in B.C. Wildfires create unusable wood but they also leave behind timber that if harvested quickly enough, can limit the risks of future fires while also providing fibre supply to the industry. This is happening when a significant portion of B.C. lumber is being exported to the U.S. and is subjected to tariffs and duties.

Using the wood under a Scandinavian model could be the answer. “That means going from 1,200 wood buildings a year to 2,200 wood buildings a year,” Jeffery said. This can be achieved by utilizing the wood that is currently going to waste.

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Government Looks at Factory-Built Homes to Increase Supply

Daniel Johnson - BNN Bloomberg

There is plenty of talk about Canada’s housing supply and for the federal government, there is hope that modular factory-built homes could be part of the solution to keep up with demand.

Based on numbers from Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp., Canada will have a 3,5 million home shortfall by the end of the decade to restore affordability.

“Modular really represents an opportunity to give the construction sector different options to help meet that significant demand by fabricating different building components or modules in an off-site controlled factory environment,” says Sunil Johal, vice president of public policy at CSA Group.

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Progress Continues, No Opening for Tolko Mill Set

Chris Clegg - South Peace News

After a fire devastated Tolko’s High Prairie mill in May 2022, the facility was shut down and 20 months later, there is still no set date for the mill to reopen, although progress is being made.

“Tolko’s High Prairie team continues to make excellent progress on the rebuilding project at the mill, and we hope to be able to share more information soon about restarting production,” says Chris Downey, Tolko’s communications advisor.

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Dimensional Lumber

Summary

Overall, the dimensional market continues to feel somewhat balanced. We’re not seeing real significant buildups of material through any of the dimensions and availability is reasonable. However, there continue to be modest order files reported at a number of mills.

2x4

It was a relatively flat week on print for 2x4 with some items printing up a few dollars and some down, but overall, let’s call it flat.

A number of the large majors continue to offer 4” at or around print levels with modest order files in the 2-3 week range at times. On a regional level, mills continue to produce and we’re seeing a bit of a range in numbers with some mills trying to protect a little bit more and push the numbers higher. However, we’re not getting the sense that those numbers are being achieved in the marketplace.

What we are sensing is that there is a little more interest at the distribution level and those who have taken a bit of a position are trying to move lumber, feeling there is limited activity in 4”.

2x6

The 6” market remains a little tighter when we look at supply overall. We’re not seeing a great deal of 6” available which is leading to price stability. Any deals that are happening appear to be one-offs and are not indicative of the larger market at play.

Mills that do have 2x6 available are sitting back and pushing a little more firmness with their numbers. However, there may be some confusion in the hands of consumers seeing a range of numbers out there that we still don’t think is indicative of the 2x6 market.

2x8 & 2x10

In the 2x8 and 2x10 markets, there continues to be a little more stability. We saw 8” with more positivity last week as there was less available on mill ists. Look for 8” to continue to show a little more firmness and stability. Again, the curtailment at West Fraser could have played into this somewhat and there are some rumblings of shift pullbacks at other wide-producing mills.

It’s much the same for 2x10 as it is a little more stable and flat on print. Again, we’re not seeing quite as much on lists but there is definitely more available than in 2x8.

2x12

Print on 2x12 actually showed a little positivity last week. Again, this may be attributed to the announcement. Takeaway on 12” is languishing somewhat.


Studs

Widespread caution continued to permeate the stud market this past week as purchasers remain entrenched in their positions on the sidelines. Most remain apprehensive about covering much more than just their near-term needs, again relying on prompt distribution channels to fulfill just-in-time inventory obligations.

Mill order files for the most part remain extended out 2 weeks with the more prevalent 9’ trims in both dimensions. Meanwhile 8’ remains scarce in 2x6, with availability pushing into mid-February. Mills continue to try and hold to current trading levels, however, with more meagre interest as of late, they may be more inclined to start taking on counter offers.

This week we can expect a continued tone of cautious demand, despite limited apparent downside risk. With less market volatility as of late, purchasers have become very reliant on just-in-time supply and are comfortable now not trying to buy the very bottom. Right now most have the benefit of time and are not being pressured to step in at these levels. They will do so once they can be confident a clear-cut market direction has been established, even if this could equate to potentially chasing the market for a week or two.


MSR Lumber

There wasn’t a significant change with regard to MSR sales last week. Mills had difficulty outselling their production last week and in turn, there were ‘deals’ on prompt material as well as material that was out a week.

The demand for 2x4 and 2x6 2100 continues to lead the way and although availability is getting better on those items, for the most part, mills have been able to sell at their published prices. We don’t expect that to change too much going forward with 14’ and longer being the most sought-after items.

Again, there has been no significant change in LTL MSR sales. LTL MSR inquiries are still steady each week as most truss plants are still quite busy quoting prompt orders with limited inventory on the ground. When orders come in, most are looking to replenish quickly with very specified tallies. Most of our purchases continue to be for our inventory locations to help fulfill these needs and we expect that to continue for the next month or so.

Please keep an eye out for any 2x4/2x6 2100 longs as well as 2x8 MSR, as getting coverage on those items can be tough if there is a specific tally that you require.

Please don’t hesitate to reach out to us if you have any questions or would like an update on price and availability.

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Douglas Fir & Larch MSR

The quiet tone to last week’s DFL MSR market carried into this week as we round the corner on the first month of the year. Today we find ourselves assessing the short-term supply-demand balance and reestablishing baseline pricing.

To their credit, mills have been largely successful in maintaining price levels through the tail end of ’23 and through the bulk of January. Today, prices continue to soften after several weeks of reduced field usage, limited takeaway from mills, and winter weather. While we collectively wait for a spring run-up, mills are resisting anything but modest counters and buyers sense remaining softness and are holding off until mills relax their positions leading to something of a standoff.

The softness in 2x4 1800 prices carried through (-$10 this week) and has been joined by 2x6 1800 & 2400, (-$5 each on the week), breaking 2x6 2400’s fifteen-week streak of printing flat to up. Of note, print prices on both 2x4 and 2x6 1800 are currently below SPF 1650 while 2x8 MSR remains available from a limited number of producers with pricing being held within previously established trading bandwidths. Mill order files are currently prompt to 3 weeks out.

Availability in DFL MSR remains uneven mill to mill by grade and width, leading to continued mill pushback when quoting specified tallies outside of their inventory balance. As per usual, longs remain in the highest demand and the tightest supply.

While caution rightly continues to prevail when purchasing and there does appear to be some remaining softness in the market, this may be a good moment to assess upcoming needs on bread-and-butter items. You can work towards addressing your needs at levels that circumvent the potential for downside risk where those needs align with the mills’ points of oversupply.


Panel Products

Plywood

Plywood continues to dip with minimal takeaway on cash. Mills have continued to try and keep discounts to a minimum and buyers are trying to move off their current on-ground inventories.

Conversations have largely been centred around spring demand with many commenting that there will be a need as many are underbought for Industrial jobs, including ice roads.

Random lengths print reported numbers lower again after just 1 flat week.

OSB

The OSB market in Western Canada continues to be slow on takeaway, with limited cash offerings available through a few mills for late February or early March delivery.

Contract wood, which had also been scarce, is now making its way into offerings with availability through distribution at discounted levels. Price cracks are evident throughout as buyers sit out for the time being on volume purchases.


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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