It’s Much the Same for the Markets with Limited Downside Risk and Some Cautious Optimism

This is the last update for the month of May as we roll into June and unfortunately, if we go back to look at our 3 previous updates for this month, we have a sneaking suspicion that things will feel altogether too familiar.

We continue to trudge along in a market that just doesn’t seem to want to find its footing and gain any traction or momentum in a positive direction.

We’re coming out of the U.S. May long weekend, which followed the Canadian May-long. And the back-to-back long weekends, for many, sometimes offer a psychological signal to the beginning of the building season and busier times ahead. Unfortunately, we came out of the Canadian long weekend with a rather muted tone and although it’s early in the week, thus far, coming out of the U.S. long weekend it feels much the same.

We are still seeing a lack of urgency from the hands of buyers as they continue to comment that there is some potential positivity coming to them. There is some anticipated increase in business. However, it doesn’t seem to be as engaging as many would hope and buyers continue to be wary of purchasing more than their immediate-term needs.

The activity levels as such are keeping mills from having the ability to move numbers up. We have felt for a number of weeks now that there is a relative bottom to where we are at these levels with limited downside. Much of that has been echoed through the market, however, this still hasn’t engaged buyers to feel that they need to take a position now for fear of missing out.

That sense is leading some to feel that perhaps we will continue to see this market drag along through June as a real lack of demand persists to spur on activity. The conversation continues to bounce around about supply with perhaps a bit of an oversupplied market overall and whether there will be another round of curtailments announced. Or, will there be some type of catalyst on the supply side as mills once again try to improve the return at the mill level? At this point, it certainly seems that if left to its own devices, the market will grind along as we move deeper into June.

We’re excited to add a new section to This Week in Wood! We will be adding some comments going forward on the Southern Yellow Pine market as we are seeing it have more of an impact on the overall lumber market across North America. It may not be something that affects you in your day-to-day business directly but the activity in SYP has certainly grown over the past few years. We feel there may be some valuable information to share going forward.


Supply & Distribution Update

Sales of random dimensions were uneventful. Fewer supplies were available but mills discounted substitutes narrowing the spread between #2&btr and premium grades. Buyers covered only immediate needs in a narrow range around last week’s reported levels.

Speculation remained sparse despite many traders’ belief that downside risk is minimal. No notable uptick in demand has been reported. Victoria Day in Canada and Memorial Day in the U.S. have seemingly had a noticeable negative effect on sales through last week and into the start of this week. Supply remains to outpace demand and some product availability has longer lead times than others.

Activity out of distribution remains slowed while demand remains unchanged. The usual tight availability brought on by long weekends has failed to create any sort of disruptions in the flow of product. Shipment appointments are widely available along with truck availability. As buyers continue to replenish modestly, the overall demand adversely affects distribution flow.

Last week's quieter tone in transportation has merged into the start of the current week. Currently, there are no transportation disruptions to report. The holidays in the U.S. and Canada had very little impact on shipping. Transportation availability is optimal for most lanes within North America.

Transportation providers are in high competition with one another and strive for all the freight they can handle. We have not seen any new news regarding the rail strike to report and there is still no indication if or when the strike may occur. Wildfires have had no effect on transportation lanes.

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Canadian New Home Prices Increase Slightly in April

Statistics Canada

On a national scale, April saw the price of new homes rise by 0.2% over the previous month. There was strength in the West to create that slight increase in prices. However, year over year, new home prices declined.

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Regulations, 'Fragmented' Construction Sector Holding Back Housing Starts: CMHC

The Canadian Press - Daily Commercial News

Are housing starts keeping up with the resources available to reach the goals needed to ensure supply is met? Canada’s national housing agency says that’s not happening thanks to restrictive regulations and a “highly fragmented” industry.

According to CMHC senior vice-president of housing economics and insights Mathieu Laberge, Canada can potentially build over 400,000 homes each year, which is over the 240,000 housing starts built last year.

While construction labour shortages are a barrier to increasing supply, there were close to 650,000 people working to build homes in Canada in 2023, and that was “the most we’ve ever seen.”

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Preference for New Homes Keeps Rising

National Association of Home Builders (U.S.)

The U.S. is seeing homebuyers prefer new builds over existing homes at a greater pace than in years past. An NAHB study indicates that 61% would rather purchase a new home instead of an existing home, which is the highest percentage since 2007’s 63%.

This is possibly due to the fact that the price of a new home in 2023 was roughly only 9% higher than an existing home. In 2013, that gap was wider as a new home cost about 36% more than the average existing home.

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Dimensional Lumber

Summary

The dimensional market had a similar week once again as we have over the last several. There was reasonable, albeit lacklustre takeaway reported overall.

Again, as indicated, consumers continue to purchase for their immediate needs, most of which can be met by the national mill lists or by what is being produced at the regional level. Price ranges remain relatively narrow, although with that said, there are continued reports of prices being put out under mill replacement at some points from wholesale and distribution when there seems to be a need or desire to move off inventory.

Again, much like we’ve said before, this continuation of what feels like a slight oversupply is keeping demand and the need for heavy purchasing for dimensional at bay.

2x4

The 2x4 market ended the week printing up slightly. When we looked at straight length, there was some strength in 8’ and 12’ with 20s printing down. The slight upward tick was a bit confusing. We would suggest that flatness in 2x4 was really the name of the game for most of last week.

Again, we continue to see national mills with availability that ranged from prompt to 4 and 5 weeks out. Mills are relatively firm on anything beyond 3 weeks, but again willing to listen slightly on prompt material.

It’s a similar situation at the regional mills as production seemingly outpaced takeaway and mills looked to hold relatively firm on their numbers. However, there were reports of business being put together on numbers slightly under those ask levels on a case-by-case basis.

We see 2x4 holding at this point. It’s really tough to push pricing up given current market trends.

2x6

Again, 6” showed a little positivity on print, namely in 8’, 12’, and 14’ with the balance being flat. The reality is that 6” is holding overall within the market. Similar to 2x4, availability seems to be reasonable. We are not seeing a glut of 6” building on lists, whether they be national or regional, but again, there is certainly enough to meet the current consumption rate.

Going forward, the potential for upside on 6” seems a little better when looking at historical trends. But again, so far it’s just stumbling forward as we head into June.

2x8 & 2x10

In 2x8 and 2x10 there was a little more positivity displayed on print. The feeling here that we can attribute that to was that some of the curtailment and pullback in production continue to show a little more stability in the wides overall. This gives some hope to the producing side of the market that if they can find that same balance in the narrows, we could see better stability and more reaction to activity.

It didn’t seem that overall there was a tremendous amount of 8” and 10” being traded last week. But it was enough that there was some positivity in the numbers.

Mills will continue to try to stand behind the slightly lower volume of wides being produced so they can eek numbers up. It will be a grind, however, as they are still not immune to the realities of the broader overall market.

2x12

It remains a relatively flat and balanced market for 2x12. We saw flat print, and again, there was not a tremendous amount of 12” trading taking place.


Studs

Stud demand this past week continued to mirror more of the same stance from weeks prior. As with many items in the lumber market these last 3 weeks, purchasers have maintained their cautious approach and remain steadfast in covering only their most pressing and prompt requirements with the market presenting an overall neutral tone.

Reliance on secondary distribution continues as buyers look to limit their exposure and keep a watchful eye for any escalation in pricing or market activity.

Mill lists remain somewhat slim with prompt offerings, as most 2x4 trims show an early June availability, while 2x6 trims again remain the most sparse dimension, presenting availability into mid-June. With order files somewhat extended now to 2-3 weeks, mills are again holding to their established pricing.

However, a quieter pace out of the gates this week could see producers again fielding counters in an attempt to garner stronger interest that has sometimes been fleeting as of late.

Continue to cover your near-term needs as required. As with weeks past, we expect similar market stability and a continued concern for potential downside risk. This will generate a measured and hesitant market, as buyers continue to hold to a “wait-and-see” purchasing strategy. However, it genuinely feels as though the stud market has found a firm balance, and mills will be hard-pressed to pull pricing back yet again.


Treated Lumber

There have been reports that the treated market is starting to gain a little bit of steam with more positivity and takeaway from the end-user level. Again, it’s certainly nothing that will take the treated market and push it forward in a meaningful way. However, it is one area of positivity that has been reported in a few different regions.

As we get through the May long weekends, treated looks to continue moving at a reasonable pace heading into the heart of the season. We anticipate relative price stability overall on treated. However, there are still rumblings in the background that competition between some of the producers could lead to certain items perhaps softening as market share is attempted to be taken.

At the same time, there are certain items, namely some of the timbers that have been more challenging to source. We may see some price appreciation, which is something to watch with respect to the treated marketplace as we start a new month.


Southern Yellow Pine

Southern Yellow Pine markets have gained strength over the past few weeks. Supplies have tightened and mills have been able to firm pricing. Leading the way was 10”, posting solid gains week over week and has now settled into a comfortable trading level.

Meanwhile, 4” is the latest to engage. Tally offerings can be fragmented and getting your ideal tally has gotten tougher with 6” being solid as well.

The 8” SYP MSR market has been a value item. It can be finicky when it wants to take off. We are going to see 8” firm next as supply rectifies to demand. Producers may choose to make more 4” in lieu of 8”.

We are expecting SYP MSR to continue to firm over the coming weeks in all widths.


MSR Lumber

With the short week in Canada last week and the Memorial Day holiday this week, we saw slightly less activity on MSR sales since our last publication. Activity remains steady at most mills and although sales are slower than they would like at this time of year, they do continue to sell very close to their production on most items. We’ve found that 2x4 1650 is one that is moving quite a bit slower than production and is one item that is readily available for prompt shipment. It is also probably the only MSR item where a price discount is available.

If you have more than 2 weeks for shipment on material that you require, tally flexibility is available on most items. Although tighter on some lengths, 2x4 and 2x6 2100 continue to be the items of choice for most truss plants.

Another positive has been the availability of long lengths in most grades, even 2100. We wouldn’t go so far as to say they are plentiful, but there have been more available over the past few weeks.

Please don’t hesitate to reach out if you have any questions on availability or pricing over the next few weeks.

Contact Us for Up-to-Date Pricing & Availability


Douglas Fir & Larch MSR

Trading in the DFL MSR market remained modest but steady early last week, slowing by Thursday as those who had stepped into the market met their immediate needs and the Memorial Day long weekend approached. End-users continue to report positivity and that order files are growing. Usage continues to be measured, and there is little urgency to secure materials beyond immediate needs.

Pricing dropped -$10 on 2x4 & 2x6 2400 and remains the grade most likely to see discounts considered by mills on prompt loads. Prices on 2x4 and 2x6 1800 slipped -$5 from their previously established levels.

Interest in higher grades of DFL continues to be weighted to longer lengths with ongoing limited availability. We’ve recently seen additional availability in 2x8 & 2x10 MSR, which combined with the ongoing price correction in 2400 leads to a discussion regarding the inroads made by SYP products into the broader market.

Mills remained cautious with price concessions, suggesting that prices are near or at break-even points on production costs. Mill order files range from immediate to 3 weeks out.

The DFL market continues to struggle to find a balance between supply and demand against the high costs of production. Until a balance is found between supply and demand against internal market forces, there remains the possibility of further curtailments.

While there is an ongoing shift in the market as it works to find a balance between species, low prices and positive mill availability in DFL MSR continue to present a good buying opportunity for those considering their next 45 days' needs.


Panel Products

Plywood

Prices in plywood have firmed up over the last week due to moderate activity in Eastern Canada with smaller volumes that were sold into the West covering short-term demand. Order files are a few weeks out, with most shipping for the week of June 17th.

Contract offerings combined with the little bits of cash into the West have been enough to cover current demand. Distribution yards are still showing decent amounts of availability in yards as an addition.

While some buyers had opted for Truckloads over the past 2 weeks as we sensed the bottom forming, many others are still filling in on a needs-only basis supplementing with LTL sales.

OSB

OSB sales in Western Canada continue to be sluggish as buyers have on-ground stock for the short term and contract offerings are covering prompt needs on fill-in.

Buyers are concerned, however, about what availability might look like come mid/late summer as we grapple with limited offerings on cash out of Western producers with no current end in sight if the demand in the West decides to pick up.

While cash offerings are somewhat non-existent today, Those who have quoted are well over print numbers and shipping into mid-late July.


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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