Market Recap: RISI Crow’s Construction Materials Cost Index
A price index of lumber and panels used in actual construction for Jan. 17, 2014
*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: Unlike the week prior, no sharp gains in lumber futures appeared by Thursday to spur buying in the SPF lumber market. Instead, trading activity was modest, which left most #2&Btr prices flat in the West. Price increases in Canadian markets were partially due to a weakening Canadian dollar. Stud prices were strong. Southern Pine lumber mills continued to press prices higher. Texas absorbed significant volumes. Secondaries began looking at escalating prices with greater caution. Producers reported better export sales to Mexico and other destinations. Mills continued to sell Coastal species lumber at a steady pace. California remained active. Demand from local yards also contributed strongly to sales. Solid, consistent volumes intended for China absorbed production. The Inland species lumber market started the week on a quiet pace, with more phone calls for shipment status rather than sales inquiries. By midweek the pace had improved and callers looked for wood. A few sales people reported an increase in phone calls from customers looking for Radiata Pine Mldg&Btr. The Ponderosa Pine Shop market remained active, as window and door manufacturers and cut stock plants continued to look for bargains and quick shipments. Most were unsuccessful, as mill inventories were light and prices were up. Some producers were oversold and unable to quote. The focus in Ponderosa Pine boards seems to have shifted from #2&Btr to #3 Common. Producers reported a quieter pace to #2&Btr and some softness in wider widths. ESLP producers reported steady sales and firm pricing. Eastern White Pine sales were steady. Mill order files out several weeks helped keep prices firm or up on a few items. Most Western Red Cedar prices were unchanged, but those adjusted did so to higher levels. Producers in the U.S. again cited rising log prices as a probable market driver in the coming months.
Panels: Activity in the OSB markets was described by one trader as uneventful and lackluster by another. Producers with order files from one to three weeks out were content to hold to their list prices. Buyers admitted they needed to buy more wood. Whenever possible, Southern Pine plywood customers stayed on the sidelines, sensing an opportunity in a struggling market. Those that did need to purchase rated sheathing usually did so at negotiated levels. Western Fir plywood producers wanting to reestablish an order file did so at a steep cost, discounting CDX items considerably in some instances. Others held quotes and declined to discount down to market levels, citing production costs that exceeded market prices. Canadian plywood producers reported another quiet week for sales. National distribution chain buyers concentrated on contract loads and did little cash market business. Mills indicated the bulk of their business was done with regional buyers and retail yards. Particleboard producers experienced notably improved sales volumes. MDF sales were lackluster.
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Houzz opens first international offices
Home remodeling and design platform Houzz is opening its first offices abroad, a move motivated by the 35% share online traffic that already comes from outside the U.S.
“Houzz has always been about eliminating the barriers that exist between homeowners and good design, and between talented home improvement professionals and their potential customers– wherever they might be,” said Adi Tatarko, Houzz cofounder and CEO. “Expanding to new markets will help us meet the enormous demand for our platform and provide the localized experience our global community of homeowners and home professionals has been asking for.”
The online company has opened offices and hired managers in the U.K., Germany and Australia who will oversee regional operations in Western Europe and Asia Pacific.
Oliver Jung (of Airbnb) has also been brought on board to lead this new wave of international expansion.
“Houzz transformed the $300 billion dollar home remodeling and design industry in the U.S. and is well on its way to doing the same on a global scale,” said Jung. “I’ve been amazed by Houzz’s brand equity in other countries and am excited to join the team during this next phase of growth.”
Today, Houzz receives more than 16 million monthly uniques and has a network of 300,000 professionals in 60 categories, including home builders, architects, interior designers and contractors. Houzz says that it plans to open more international offices this year.
Housing starts: The 2013 review
Residential construction statistics released Friday morning showed housing starts in December dipped back below the million mark. But that slight backstep didn’t prevent the year from producing a double-digit increase.
The following graphics tell the story of a housing industry still struggling to regain a semblance of normality (which would be approximately 1.5 million starts per year), while showing signs of momentum.
The chart above shows the end-of-year annual housing starts figures since 2000. These are the actual numbers of single- and multi-family housing units started — not the seasonally adjusted annual rate. In 2013, starts totaled 923,400, an 18.3% improvement over 2012. Still, the industry is dwarfed by the 2005 total of 2.1 million.
The chart above shows the recent three months of housing starts compared with year-ago periods and expressed as a seasonally adjusted annual rate. December’s tally was ahead of last year, but down from a 1.11 million rate tallied in November.
The chart above shows the year 2013 in review — single-family starts and total starts peaked in November. While December showed a decline in single-family starts, it also marked the second-strongest performance in this metric for the year.