Market Recap: RISI Crow's Construction Materials Cost Index


A price index of lumber and panels used in actual construction for March 9, 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: Western SPF producers reported steady sales in enough volume to keep prices firm or moving moderately higher. An uptick in demand occurred Thursday in response to an up-limit move in futures. Volumes sold to overseas customers added to upward price movement. The East was not as active. Sales activity in the Southern Pine lumber market slowed, but not enough to keep dimension prices from achieving double-digit price increases. Broken tallies, extended delivery times and thin field inventories contributed to higher prices. Activity in the Coastal species lumber market remained steady, and dimension continued to sell at higher prices. Difficulty locating low-grade needs brought buyers back into the market looking for coverage. Tight log availability remained a market factor. An increasingly tight supply of Inland species lumber kept buyers on the hunt and mills in control of the market. The market started quiet, but by week's end, mill order files were out as far as the first week in April and prices were higher. The lack of Ponderosa Pine boards kept buyers scrambling to find coverage. Finding tallies and ship times that met their needs was a difficult proposition. Sales of ESLP #2&Btr remained good. Eastern White Pine sales remained strong, as buyers looked for alternates to Ponderosa Pine. Light inventories of Idaho White Pine kept producers in control of that market. Sales of Radiata Pine Mld&Btr were steady. Sales of Shop were light, but limited availability kept prices firm. Increased activity for blanks continued, and prices were firm but unchanged. With the calendar fully into March, Western Red Cedar traders began looking ahead more earnestly toward spring. Buyers, sensing potential shortages of some items, have recently stepped up to purchase PTS volumes for delivery as far out as June.

Panels: The OSB market was what many described as "transitional" in nature. Activity was slower than last week, but producers reported sales at current market levels or a bit higher in some cases. Consistent takeaways in the distribution chain and the need for secondaries to replenish helped send Southern Pine plywood prices higher. Mill order files extended to the end of March and early April forced buyers to turn to wholesalers and distributors for coverage. After a sluggish start, Western Fir plywood mills reported upticks in demand on Wednesday and Thursday, but overall sales activity was usually described as only "fair." Availability at mills remained in the weeks of March 19 or 26. Sales volumes for Canadian plywood quieted from the prior week's pace. Many traders felt mill order files, rather than a lack of need, kept buyers on the sidelines. Progress in both particleboard and MDF markets was still evident, no matter how gradual improvements might seem. Price increases have been initiated.

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