Market Recap: RISI Crow's Construction Materials Cost Index

A price index of lumber and panels used in actual construction for March 16, 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: Sales activity was lackluster in the SPF lumber market, as traders awaited the expiration of the March futures contract. Despite the sporadic trading, which spiked modestly higher on Wednesday, #2&Btr prices remained firm in both the East and West. Momentum from previous weeks dwindled early in the Southern Pine lumber market, limiting price increases for dimension lumber. While producers carried order files of up to two weeks, others had greater volumes to offer customers. Prices managed to increase. Sales activity in the Coastal species lumber market slowed enough for one major producer to describe the market as "quiet." Still, prices were stable or edged higher. Low grades remained strong. The market for Inland species lumber was quieter than in previous weeks, but control of the market remained in the hands of producers. Wholesalers reported good activity out of reloads, as buyers turned there to get quicker deliveries than mills offered. Idaho White Pine sales remained on firm ground, as light inventories and steady sales moved prices up in both Sterling and Standard grades. Eastern White Pine producers carried light inventories, and prices were firm or higher. Ponderosa Pine board mills continued to cut alternate species, which left buyers struggling to find coverage in that species. Availability of Ponderosa Pine Mldg&Btr and Shop remained limited. An increase in solid linear moulding orders brought millwork manufacturers into the market. Radiata Pine Shop sales were light and availability thin. One Western Red Cedar producer described sales activity as "more sporadic," which lent to an overall feel that demand had taken a half-step backward. Previously sold volumes made their way through the distribution system, leaving a pause before buyers step back in to purchase again.

Panels: Although the tone of OSB markets was quiet, the overall sense of the market was still positive. Order files out as far as mid-April strengthened producers' control of the market. Production volumes in close step with demand added to that strength. Southern Pine plywood buyers directed more of their attention toward tasks other than purchasing. Buyers did fill in inventory holes when necessary but tended to hold off on large purchases. The week in Western Fir plywood got off to a decent start and saw its greatest activity at midweek before slowing. Significant volumes of sheathing sold, allowing producers to post higher quotes and achieve levels $10 higher on most CDX items. The market for Canadian plywood was steady but quiet due to mill order files as far out as the week of April 16. Spring break in some areas and a "wait and see" attitude from buyers were also mentioned as reasons for the slower pace. Enough volumes of particleboard and MDF sold at higher prices to push some market levels higher.

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