Market Recap: RISI Crow’s Construction Materials Cost Index
A price index of lumber and panels used in actual construction for Feb. 22, 2013
*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: Sluggish sales activity in the SPF lumber market eroded mill order files and forced secondaries to look for sales $20 or more below mill quotes. A significant downturn in the futures market garnered much of the blame for the lack of sales activity in the cash market. Buyers took a wait-and-see approach to the Southern Pine lumber market while mills pressed prices higher. Diminished sales activity forced producers to lean on order files more and even generated a bit of floor stock at some mills. Although Coastal species lumber producers reported a quieter market, they still sold good volumes often equating to at least a week’s worth of production. Low-grade prices were once again stellar, jumping by double digits in a few instances. Inland lumber sales activity was slowed by the Presidents’ Day holiday on Monday, a weakening lumber futures market, snow storms and bad weather in the middle half of the nation. Buyers looking for open market Radiata Pine found few offerings available, and what was available was at higher levels. Although Ponderosa Pine Moulding and Shop producers reported a continuation of better sales activity, buyers were hesitant to pay much more for the products. A lack of availability, along with a slight increase in demand, helped propel Ponderosa Pine board prices higher. Mills reported steady sales of ESLP in most widths. Activity for Eastern White Pine remained steady for Standard and Industrial grades. Selects remained slow. A lack of fiber in the Western Red Cedar market forced secondaries to seek coverage from alternative producers. Unfortunately, for buyers scouring the market, any extra volume at mills was extremely scarce.
Panels: The OSB market took on a quieter tone as many buyers went to the sidelines to wait for a more definitive direction in the market. Dealers needing to buy often turned to secondaries for quicker shipment. While wholesalers sold volumes that will ship the last week of February and early March, Southern Pine plywood mills experienced less sales activity. Mill order files usually stretched into the weeks of March 11 and 18. Western Fir plywood producers were disappointed that a strong OSB market and high Southern Pine plywood prices did not influence their market more. Western buyers purchased significant truckload volumes at mill asking levels. After a few strong weeks of sales at eastern particleboard plants and some testing of higher quotes, a couple of particleboard producers have decided to increase prices in early March. In MDF, mills continued to carry strong order files in response to steady demand.
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Sales soft, but Walmart beats profit forecast
Walmart overcame a meager 1% same-stores sales increase at U.S. stores to deliver better-than-expected fourth-quarter profits.
The company said total sales increased 3.9% to $127.1 billion compared to $122.3 billion last year. Without the benefit of a favorable currency exchange situation, sales would have increased a lesser 3.7% to $126.8 billion. Full year sales increased by 5% to $466.1 billion compared to last year’s total of $443.8.
Fourth-quarter profits increased 7.9% to $5.6 billion and earnings per share of $1.67 were 10.6% higher than the $1.51 reported the prior year and well ahead of the company’s guidance and analysts’ consensus estimate. Walmart had forecast profits in a range of $1.53 to $1.58 and analysts were looking for $1.57.
"Walmart topped off a really good year with a solid fourth quarter, and I’m proud of what we accomplished as a team," said Mike Duke, president and CEO of Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. Every day our associates around the world deliver on our mission to help customers save money so they can live better. Together, we added $22 billion in sales to top $466 billion. Walmart U.S. was a key driver of our 5% sales increase."
The 1% U.S. comp increase was at the low end of a forecast range which called for a 1% to 3% increase and a slow start to the first quarter has the company forecasting flat same store sales.
To offset the deceleration in U.S. comps, which can be attributed to a range of external economic pressures, Walmart highlighted its volume growth and market share gains. The company said its U.S. division added more than $10 billion in net sales last year, including $4.7 billion as a result of same store sales growth. The company said it gained share in categories such as food, consumables, health and wellness, entertainment and toys.
"Despite comps at the low end of the guidance, our market share gains, as noted by Nielsen and NPD, along with our two-year positive comp trend indicates the underlying strength of Walmart’s business," said Walmart U.S. president and CEO Bill Simon. "Comp sales grew by 1% for the quarter, lapping a solid 1.5% comp last year. This represented $743 million in comp growth for the quarter."
Looking ahead, Walmart faces a challenging comparison against a first quarter 2012 U.S. comp increase of 2.6% and a variety of headwinds such as increased gas prices and reductions in take home pay. Against this backdrop, Simon expressed confidence that the company’s familiar low price strategy will continue to resonate with shoppers.
However, a slow start to February caused largely by a delay in tax refunds has dimmed enthusiasm for the first quarter and resulted in a flat same store sales forecast.
"We continue to monitor economic conditions that can impact our sales, such as rising fuel prices, changes in inflation and the payroll tax increase," Simon said.