Market Recap: RISI Crow’s Construction Materials Cost Index
A price index of lumber and panels used in actual construction for Feb. 21, 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: SPF lumber traders reported a quiet week of sales activity. Many left their offices early in the week for an industry gathering in Montreal. On the heels of improved sales the week prior, producers had little incentive to listen to counters. Sporadic early sales activity in the Southern Pine lumber market improved on Wednesday and continued through Thursday. Activity was highlighted by 2×6 #2 sales, especially in the West, where, after early discounts, that price increased to the prior week’s levels. Pricing remained mixed in the Coastal species lumber market, with the primary distinction being between narrow and wide widths. Light demand for 2×10 and 2×12 kept downward pressure on those prices. Mill sales of Inland species varied by what region they were talking to and what the mill had to offer. Buyers in the northern reaches were busy just trying to keep the snow out of their yards and their trucks on the road. Moderate sales of Radiata Pine 6/4 Mldg&Btr moved prices for that item up slightly. Inquiries for Shop grades increased, but offerings remained limited. Heavy winter weather in many regions quieted Ponderosa Pine industrial lumber sales, and until sales improve, buyers are keeping inventory purchases in check. Sales activity for boards at Ponderosa Pine mills remained “light but steady” with narrow #3 the big item. ESLP board sales were light but steady. Weather continued to mute consumption of Western Red Cedar in key northern regions of the U.S., but inventories at mills remained tighter than what the market has grown accustom to for this time of the year. Higher quotes were largely due to high log costs in both Canada and the United States.
Panels: This week’s OSB market may have brought a glimpse of things to come. Improving weather in the southern regions brought buyers back to the table, and mills were able to extend order files and raise prices. Mill order files into mid-March helped firm producers’ resolve. Southern Pine plywood sales at mills improved on Wednesday, pushing rated sheathing prices higher and several order files into the week of March 10. Most rated sheathing prices adjusted $5 to $10 higher, with most exceptions gaining more than $10. Trading in the Western Fir plywood market remained strong enough to press sheathing prices higher for another week. Weather remained an issue in key areas like the Midwest and Northeast, but upticks in volumes moving into those regions and sales to western yards allowed mills to establish lead times more solidly out into early March. Canadian plywood producers described the market as “very quiet” and “slow” when they spoke of sales activity. They added that their order files are out to mid-March, in some cases, and they are having production problems due to cold temperatures and snow. Both MDF and particleboard producers reported a good sales week in which they sold above and beyond a week’s worth of production.
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Beazer appoints Tim Little as Phoenix division president
Beazer Homes USA has appointed Tim Little to the post of Phoenix division president.
“We are extremely pleased to welcome Tim to Beazer Homes," said president and CEO Allan Merrill. "He possesses a strong track record of leadership and success in the Phoenix market, including extensive experience in land acquisition and development. We believe the Phoenix market is one of the most important and dynamic new home markets in the country and adding a seasoned executive like Tim underscores its importance to us."
Little brings 30 years of home-building experience to the table, which includes divisional and financial management stints at Standard Pacific, UDC Homes and Estes Homes. Most recently, he led the Arizona Division for AV Homes. He is also a cerified public accountant in Arizona and Colorado.
Little will be replacing Ken Dohrn, who is taking a new position in California for Beazer Homes.
Existing-home sales take a hit in January
On the heels of an unrelenting winter, existing-home sales reached a year-and-a-half low of 4.62 million in January (down 5.1%), though home prices continued to rise, according to the National Association of Realtors.
Single-family home sales were down 5.8% to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.05 million, which is 6.0% below January 2013’s rate.
The median existing-home price — as well as the median single-family existing-home price — was $188,900 in January, up 10.7% year-over-year. Meanwhile, total housing inventory rose 2.2% in January to 1.90 million existing homes available for sale, representing a 4.9-month supply.
January’s seasonally adjusted annual rate was also 5.1% below January 2013’s rate of 4.87 million units (identical to that of December 2013).
“Disruptive and prolonged winter weather patterns across the country are impacting a wide range of economic activity, and housing is no exception,” said NAR chief economist Lawrence Yun. “Some housing activity will be delayed until spring. At the same time, we can’t ignore the ongoing headwinds of tight credit, limited inventory, higher prices and higher mortgage interest rates. These issues will hinder home sales activity until the positive factors of job growth and new supply from higher housing starts begin to make an impact.”
NAR president Steve Brown also added that higher flood insurance rates have led to a cancellation or delay of 30% of transactions in flood zones across the country, which account for 8 to 9% of sales.