Demand for alternative decking to rise
Demand for wood-plastic composite and plastic lumber, used in decking, railing, trim and other building materials, is projected to rise 13% per year until 2015, according to a report from The Freedonia Group. Advances will be driven by a rebound in construction expenditures from a depressed 2010 base, and growth will be boosted by increasing consumer demand for building products made from composite and plastic lumber, instead of more traditional materials, such as natural wood, according to the Cleveland-based industry research firm.
Decking, which was the leading application for composite and plastic lumber in 2010, will experience the greatest increase in demand through 2015. Other growth areas will include molding and trim, and windows. Demand for wood-plastic composite lumber will post more rapid gains than that for plastic lumber through 2015, advancing over 16% annually to $2.5 billion. Gains will be driven by ongoing consumer interest in composite lumber as a substitute for natural wood products in such applications as decking and fencing. Because wood-plastic composite lumber incorporates recycled materials, it will be seen as an environmentally friendly building material.
Plastic lumber demand is forecast to rise nearly 11% per year to $2.8 billion in 2015. Gains will be spurred by rising consumer interest in the material because of its low maintenance properties. The efforts of manufacturers to create plastic lumber with more realistic wood grain textures and surfaces will also support demand.
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Home prices keep dropping in Case-Shiller report
The S&P/Case-Shiller Index, a leading indicator of U.S. housing prices, showed home prices decrease in the second consecutive month in November 2011, posting annual returns of -3.6% and -3.7% in the 10-city and 20-city composites versus November 2010, worse than the -3.2% and -3.4% annual rates reported for October’s annual comparisons.
In month-over-month figures, the S&P/Case-Shiller 10-City and 20-City Composites both fell 1.3% in November 2011 versus October 2011. For a second consecutive month, 19 of the 20 cities covered by the indices also saw home prices decrease.
Atlanta continues to stand out in terms of recent relative weakness, as home prices there fell 2.5% over the month after having fallen by 5.0% in October, 5.9% in September and 2.4% in August. In addition, Las Vegas, Seattle and Tampa all reached new annual lows in November.
Minneapolis and Phoenix saw their annual rates improve. Detroit and Washington, D.C., were the only two cities to post positive annual returns of 3.8% and 0.5%, respectively, in November. While positive, both cities saw declines in month-over-month home prices in November compared with October.
“Despite continued low interest rates and better real GDP growth in the fourth quarter, home prices continue to fall,” said David Blitzer, chairman of the Index Committee at S&P Indices. “The only positive for the month was Phoenix, one of the hardest hit in recent years. Nationally, home prices are lower than a year ago. The trend is down and there are few, if any, signs in the numbers that a turning point is close at hand.”
Year-end numbers take a dip at Plum Creek
Plum Creek Timber Co. has announced revenues of $315 million for its fourth quarter, an 11.5% decrease over revenues of $356 million for the same quarter of 2010. Net earnings for the quarter, which ended Dec. 31, 2010, were $61 million, compared to $59 million a year old.
In year-end figures, Plum Creek reported revenues of $1.16 billion for fiscal 2011, a 2.5% decrease over $1.19 billion in 2010. Net income for the Seattle-based company was $193 million, compared to $213 million for fiscal 2010.
The company generated $275 million in operating income for 2011, a decline of $22 million from 2010’s $297 million operating income. The change was driven by a $22 million decline in operating profit from the company’s timber resource segments. Stronger export demand for west coast logs served to improve profitability in the Northern Resources segment by $11 million. This was offset by a decline in Southern log prices when unusually dry weather in 2011 caused a temporary expansion of log supplies. Operating profit in the Southern Resources segment declined $33 million.
The company’s harvest level of 15.8 million tons was approximately 2 percent higher than the 2010 harvest of 15.4 million tons. In the North, the total harvest was unchanged. Lower pulpwood harvests in the Northeast were offset by higher sawlog harvests in Oregon where the company responded to growing export demand. As a result, the Northern Resources segment sawlog harvest was 200,000 tons higher than 2010 and sawlog prices averaged approximately 10% higher. In the South, the company increased its pulpwood harvest 375,000 tons, nearly 6%, to capture relatively attractive pulpwood prices while modestly reducing its sawlog harvest.
“Plum Creek posted another good year in 2011,” said Rick Holley, president and CEO. “Once again, our unmatched geographic diversity helped us manage the business for long-term value despite some challenging market conditions. Income from continuing operations declined from our 2010 level as improved profitability in our Northern Resources segment offset some of the impact from lower log prices in the South. During the past year we acquired 60,000 acres of productive timberland and repurchased $25 million of common stock at very attractive prices.”
“While we are not anticipating a significant rebound in the economy or housing in 2012, we do expect our cash flow to grow in 2012,” Holley continued. Timber resource segments will be the main contributor, he added.
Plum Creek is one of the largest and most geographically diverse private landowners in the nation with approximately 6.6 million acres of timberlands in major timber producing regions of the United States and wood products manufacturing facilities in the Northwest.
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