Market Recap: RISI Crow's Construction Materials Cost Index

A price index of lumber and panels used in actual construction for March 2, 2012

*Western - regional species perimeter foundation; Southern - regional species slab construction.

Crow's Market Recap -- A condensed recap of the market conditions for the major North American softwood lumber and panel products as reported in Crow's Weekly Market Report.

Lumber: Demand for SPF lumber remained steady, allowing most prices to edge higher. Strong low-grade pricing persisted, while western prices managed single-digit gains in most instances. Mill sales in the Southern Pine lumber market began a notch slower than the week prior and faded more toward the week's end. Broken tallies at mills were blamed for some of the slowing. Order files extending two to three weeks prompted buyers to look to wholesalers and distributors for quicker coverage. All this added up to strong price increases. The perception of underlying fundamentals in the Coastal species lumber market was positive among traders. Demand and supply were in balance and sales activity was moderate. Overall, prices in both dry and green dimension were firm to higher. Activity for Inland species lumber was quiet early in the week but by Wednesday had gained some of its momentum back. The focus was more on Hem-Fir/White Fir than Fir-Larch, with narrows the key items. In industrials, buyers reported difficulty sourcing Radiata Pine Blanks. Ponderosa Pine industrials remained active enough to keep prices firm. Producers reported their customers were covering their March needs but not much more. Ponderosa Pine board prices continued to improve, partially due to lack of availability. In spite of limited offerings of Sugar Pine, mills were able to sell enough volume to move some prices up $5 to $10. Idaho White Pine demand was labeled "good." Demand levels changed little from previous weeks in the Western Red Cedar market. Mills took orders at a "steady" pace and shipped in the same manner. Some customers are taking shipment of previously purchased volumes a little earlier than projected, in part due to prior mild weather.

Panels: OSB producers reported continued robust sales activity and extended order files. The product flow from producer to end user remained smooth. Buyers indicated they liked the gradual price climbs, rather than skyrocketing markets of the past. Fundamentals in the Southern Pine plywood market remained strong. Buyers throughout distribution continued to purchase at a healthy rate. Supplies lagged demand, leading to order files again moving out another week. Producers raised prices. Western Fir plywood producers reported a very good week of sales. Distributors continued to purchase significant volumes. In response to demand levels and order files extended to at least mid-March, producers posted CDX prices $10 to $15 higher. Good sales activity for Canadian plywood continued, as mill order files extended and prices increased. Producers reported wide spread participation in markets for carloads as well as vans and B trains. Improvements in the particleboard market continued to take place, leading to more optimism among producers. Two-week lead times have grown to three weeks in some instances, especially at mills in the East. MDF sales maintained an improved pace that began last month.

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