On-Demand Ordering Continues as Market Prices Soften
The Canadian markets enjoyed the Thanksgiving long weekend, and as we rolled into it, we were treated to a lumber market that has shown signs of slowing down with some fairly significant price depreciation on the back of a few weeks of strong downward random print. This comes with a futures market that has trended steadily downward now for the better part of several weeks.
As we come out on the other side of this weekend, the feeling is certainly one of caution among most buyers, whether they are end-users at the store level, or at the distribution and wholesale level. Prices have shown that they are moving downward and the pace of decline appears quite strong at this time.
Trying to gauge where numbers are and where lumber is trading can be a bit tricky at this point, as we are seeing some very drastic spreads between different mills and where lumber is traded can be very different from the mill’s initial starting point.
What we are hearing in the market is that those products that are more prompt, or those that mills are showing an abundance of, are certainly open to healthy counters. At the same time, mills are being a little more guarded on items that are out several weeks or on which files remain strong.
At this point in time, buying seems to be very hand-to-mouth and consumers are looking at orders day by day. We expect this trend to continue as markets soften and we draw closer to winter.
Alberta’s Economic Recovery Hinges on Forestry Sector
With lumber prices maintaining record highs since the spring, the forestry sector will prove to play a vital role in the economic recovery of the province. Throughout the pandemic, Alberta’s forestry sector has seen sustained growth, unlike the reduced production seen in BC and elsewhere.
High-Priced Lumber and Panel Expected to Remain Despite Recent Declines
It may be several years before we see high-flying lumber and building panel prices decline across North America, according to market analysts. This comes as new home building continues to spur lumber activity and existing home renovations have flourished amid tight demand. Meanwhile, a boost is not likely given major wood-fibre shortages in BC.
Wood Tie Booms Despite the Pandemic
With the COVID-19 pandemic halting many business sectors for much of the year, the wood tie side of the lumber market has remained steady. As rail maintenance was made easier with stay-at-home orders introduced across North America, wood tie operations became integral to MOW (maintenance-of-way) programs, as seen in the noticeable jump in orders from month-to-month and year-over-year.
The dimensional market has been really leading the way down, from 2x4 all the way through to 2x12 all showing significant weakness. Again, it really depends on what you are specifically looking for and what your timeline looks like when making decisions or trying to gauge accurate pricing.
Those individuals who have time to wait, are doing so and finding lower prices when they need to pull the trigger. Meanwhile, those who need to purchase quickly are struggling with perhaps lower prices being offered, yet the timeline is being pushed further out.
We are seeing more prompt availability on 2x4 #2&btr from a variety of different mills. There are no real holes to speak of, while 2x4 8’ is certainly in abundance. We are also seeing nice volume in 2x4 10’ material. Randoms are available but it still seems like there is some pressure on 16s, as there are perhaps not as many 16’ or straight 16 loads as some would like to see.
In 2x6, we are seeing some continued weakness ahead of 2x4. The price is dropping below 4” pricing and may be moving down slightly quicker than 4” product. There continues to be a premium on 2x6 10’ and they are a little harder to come by. Long length on 2x6 is showing more availability at certain mills, meaning 18’ and 20’ products.
The 2x8 market did not seem to have much traction last week. Again, there was more downward pressure and more stock available at mills. In a market when they would normally be difficult to come by, 18’ and 20’ do appear to be available.
There continues to be increased weakness in 2x10 with strong availability across a number of mills. Look for 2x10 to show downward pricing momentum going forward, which may be a little more accelerated than some of the other dimensions.
There was not much attention given to 2x12 last week. We are seeing reasonable availability with certain mills showing a few spotty holes, but overall, trying to find randoms to suit your needs should not pose a problem, as long as you give yourself a lead time of 2-weeks or more.
Stud demand continues to weaken as purchasers are reluctant to cover more than their current requirements. There is continued downward pressure across all SPF and permeated stud lists with substantial discounts through 2x4 and moderate to flat asking prices across 2x6. However, despite evident softness, mills are not presenting much volume yet. Lists remain slim with availability still out 2-weeks or sooner, with prompt options commanding the most interest.
The treated market is really starting to wrap up for the season with spotty buying being done here and there as certain locations try to wrap up some smaller projects. But overall, it certainly has quieted down considerably.
The real tell-tale question is in looking at the decline in whitewood pricing and how it will translate into how the producing mills price their programs for next spring. It is setting itself up to be one of the most tricky negotiations in many years with prices coming off record-breaking highs, and whitewood declining quickly. Yet producers are still needing to load the cylinders and begin treating now to be ready for the spring season.
A lot of eyes will be on the treated sector as we move through the winter months in preparation for next spring. The jury is out as to what kind of season it will look like. Will it be a repeat of this year with more COVID-related projects put together to spike interest and activity, or has much of that interest been taken care of through purchasing from the previous year’s activity?
Although availability is improving on MSR, we are not seeing as much of a drastic decrease in pricing as there currently is on 2x4 and 2x6 #2&btr.
Availability is still sparse on some specific items, such as 2x6 and 2x8 MSR. Please try to provide as much lead time as possible on those, as some lengths are proving difficult to find. We continue to keep our inventories well-stocked, so prompt availability is getting a little better for your LTL needs with most items being available between 1 week to 10 days.
The panel market has not been on the same downward decline as we are seeing in dimensional lumber. Although there has not been much to say about panel takeaway over the last several weeks. The incredible order files in both OSB and plywood have been a fallback position for mills with little anticipation to see prices come off in the near term.
Mill order files on rail continue to be off the market. Super-B and vans are into early December. Of note, one mill is quoting further out if you are looking for half-inch production, as they are struggling with their half-inch order file. This has been a result of the overall market and some individuals shifting their OSB needs to plywood, which has caused quite a pinch that they are trying to dig out of.
Shipping remains behind schedule as well at this point in time. Look for plywood to hold firm through October and into November until we get a lot closer to order files.
Buyers continue to digest purchases and await shipments. Order files remain well-established and buyers continue to search for prompt availability while being met with empty yards. We will continue to see OSB print flat for the next few weeks until we get closer to order files, where the standoff between buyers and mills will come to a head and we will see if there is further support at these numbers or if we start to see numbers back off.
For the time being: FLAT.
There are different needs for different applications. Lumber quality varies from grade-to-grade and mill-to-mill. If you’re unsure about something, please contact a trader and we will assist.
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