Market Recap: RISI Crow’s Construction Materials Cost Index
A price index of lumber and panels used in actual construction for Dec. 9, 2011
*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 trading was often described as "steady." As a result, prices were largely stable and firm in both the East and West, except for a couple of minor adjustments. Trading at the secondary levels was also persistent. Southern Pine lumber mills experienced a slow sales pace, making it difficult to squeeze any more price increases out of the market. Buyers shied away from purchases consisting of large volumes, sensing a potential price peak in the current cycle. The energy level in the Coastal species lumber market picked up as the week progressed, generating firm to higher pricing for most #2&Btr items. Supplies were tight enough overall to keep buyers attentive, especially with the approaching holidays and potential for more production curtailments. Inland lumber buyers looking for prompt shipments had to broaden their search, as mill order files extended. While some buyers felt the market was poised to make a run, others played a conservative game, buying only immediate needs. In Selects and Commons, light mill inventories of Idaho White Pine matched the light inquiry from customers. Eastern White Pine producers reported continued difficulty obtaining logs due to wet weather. Production curtailments were reported, which helped keep prices firm for the most part. Ponderosa Pine Moulding and Shop producers reported a quiet week. Buyers were mostly on the sidelines, having covered most of the immediate needs last week. There was a general sense of weakness in the market. Activity for Radiata Pine Mldg&Btr was light. Earlier offers below established levels seem to have been cleaned up. Shop prices were firm. Phone activity pertaining to orders for shipment this year was low in the Western Red Cedar market. Some shipments toward the end of the month for delivery in early 2012 were noted, but much of the attention was focused on what volumes will be needed next spring.
Panels: Market activity for OSB varied by region. Traders in the Southeast reported getting more mill offerings for shipment the week of Dec. 26 or sooner. Temporary mill shutdowns also had an impact on the market. Southern Pine plywood sales activity was most often described as "slower," with some "steady" added to the mix, but mill order files extending into the first week of 2012 kept upward pressure on rated sheathing prices. Trading was sluggish in the Western Fir plywood market, leaving mill prices flat overall. Some order files remained in the week of Dec. 19. A rebound in the Canadian plywood market that started last week continued this week. While price appreciation was not rampant, mills were able to extend order files and sell some orders at higher levels. Seasonal particleboard and MDF sales continued to keep production a step ahead of demand. Melamine producers notified customers of impending cost-based price increases for January.
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The NPD Group reveals lesser-known home improvement stats
According to The NPD Group’s Consumer Tracking Service, the top selling home improvement item purchased as a gift in the 12 months ending October 2011 is the screwdriver.
That’s just one of the finding on the list of the Port Washington, N.Y.-based research firms recently published list of "What you didn’t know about home improvement."
Other findings from the home improvement industry:
• Online dollar sales increased 16% compared with last year;
• Thirty-one percent of home improvement dollars were spent by consumers ages 55 and older, compared with 25% just two years ago;
• Nearly 30% more garage-door openers were sold than last year;
• Most home improvement purchases are paid for with cash or check; and
• Forty-two percent of snow throwers/blowers were purchased in the Midwest.
Home improvement, as defined by the NPD Group, includes categories in hand tools, power tools, outdoor power equipment, storage and organization, faucets and shower heads, lighting and electrical, fans, and caulk/glue/adhesives.
Remodeling shows improvement in architectural study
Although new-home construction continues to lag, residential in-fill development and home remodeling projects are keeping architects busy, according to a quarterly report from the American Institute of Architects (AIA).
AIA chief economist Kermit Baker, formerly of the Joint Center for Housing Studies at Harvard University, noted that there are signs of recovery in the multi-family and rental side of the market. But “residential architects are reporting continued weak conditions among first-time buyers, thereby limiting any improvement in the trade-up market,” Baker said. Infill projects are getting a boost from steep foreclosure rates, low levels of suburban developments and the popularity of urban living, he added.
“Home improvement activity remains very healthy.” Baker continued. “Some of this strength comes from owners who have decided not to trade up, and have instead chosen to remodel their current homes. Additionally, improvements to distressed properties to prepare them for sale, or to fix them up after a sale, are creating opportunities in many markets across the country.”