Market Recap: RISI Crow’s Construction Materials Cost Index
A price index of lumber and panels used in actual construction for Feb. 10, 2012
*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: Early SPF lumber sales prompted mills to raise prices before demand began to fade on Wednesday. Cash sales activity and the March futures contract tended to mirror each other, gaining early and fading by midweek. By Wednesday afternoon, cash and the March futures contract were trading at the same level. Southern Pine lumber producers waited for the distribution chain to work through volumes purchased in January. While inventory at yards moved downstream at a decent pace, producers were forced to discount dimension lumber another week. Coastal species lumber prices again held up, with increases outpacing any declines. Buyers purchased steady volumes, spurred in part by order files at SPF mills and early futures gains. Gains in 2×4 #2&Btr were evident. Inland species markets remained on firm ground. A strengthening SPF market, driven by futures; distributers restocking inventory; mild weather and confidence among wholesalers all contributed to Inland pricing. Markets for Ponderosa Pine Moulding and Shop remained stable, with prices holding within a few dollars of previous levels. Supply side dynamics continued to influence Ponderosa Pine board markets. Activity for Radiata Pine Mldg&Btr continued at a steady pace with firm prices. Limited volumes of Idaho White Pine kept prices firm, in spite of light sales volumes. Continued steady sales of Eastern White Pine and order files into March kept prices firm. Sales activity in the Western Red Cedar market was slightly more subdued than in previous weeks. Some producers described the downturn in demand as a "digestion" period, after buyers, particularly retailers, purchased earlier volumes to stock shelves.
Panels: After a quiet period over the past few weeks, OSB producers reported an increase in activity and firming prices. The week started out with deep counters, but prices firmed and mill order files extended out into the weeks of Feb. 27 to March 5. After a slow beginning to the week, sales activity in the Southern Pine plywood market increased Wednesday and continued through Thursday. Negotiated rated sheathing prices were part of the mix early. Discounts dried up after wholesalers participated and distributors replenished inventories. Western Fir plywood sheathing prices bottomed at midweek and pushed $5 to $10 higher, as buyers came into in greater numbers to replenish inventories. Eastern distribution yards were instrumental in allowing producers to push prices and extend order files out in to the week of Feb. 27. The Canadian plywood market started the week out on a somewhat quiet note but soon heated up, as upcoming weight restrictions in the East and light field inventories in the West brought buyers back into the market. The pace of particleboard sales slowed modestly, while MDF sales were reported stronger for a second consecutive week.
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GE opens GeoSpring operation in Kentucky
GE Appliances has opened its GeoSpring Hybrid Water Heater manufacturing facility at Appliance Park in Louisville, Ky. — the first to open there since 1957. The new product and a revitalized facility, a $38 million investment, is the first of GE’s commitments to invest a total of $1 billion ($800 million in Louisville) and create more than 1,300 new jobs in the United States by 2014.
"The journey we started in 2009 to get to this day has been an inspirational one," said GE Appliances president and CEO Charles "Chip" Blankenship. "To reverse decades of outsourcing by bringing new, industry-leading products and jobs back to the U.S. takes tremendous cooperation, imagination, courage and plain hard work by a lot of people. I want to thank our local union, our employees, government and company officials for having and executing a vision that is bringing these jobs to Appliance Park and creating a bright future for our business."
An earlier version of the water heater had been manufactured in China, but GE found that the new product can now be made more competitively in the United States. In addition, the GeoSpring Hybrid Water Heater, developed by the Louisville team, has an enhanced feature set, offers greater energy savings and will be more affordable for consumers. The water heater provides hot water in the quantities homeowners expect from a 50-gal. tank water heater, but uses less than half the energy to produce it.
The GeoSpring is the first GE Appliances product designed and built using Lean manufacturing principles. The Lean process, which uses a cross-functional team of employees to design the product and the manufacturing process, increases the competitiveness of the operation by removing waste in materials and work effort.
State and local governments supported setting up the GeoSpring in Louisville with up to $17 million in incentives to design and build the energy-efficient facility, as well as other investments that GE is planning at Appliance Park during the next several years.
"We made a commitment early in my administration that energy-related development would be a high priority," said Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear. "We developed an aggressive plan to not only research and develop new kinds of energy production, but to attract businesses and projects that are similarly committed to cleaner, greener energy applications. GE’s new hybrid water heater is a perfect match for our energy commitment and our strong manufacturing core."
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Lawn mowers, by the numbers
The year 2010 was a year of double-digit declines for lawn mower sales. Happily, 2011 saw an 8.1% increase, according to consumer research from Port Washington, N.Y.-based NPD Group, though lawn mower sales remain below the 2009 sales of about $3.2 billion. The resurgence is making the biggest impact at warehouse home centers (WHC) and specialty stores, according to the data.
Of all the various and measurable attributes of a lawn mower — either riding mower or walk-behind — nothing is growing faster than the 16-to-21 horsepower riding mower category. This family of engines showed an 8.1 percentage point increase over 2010, growth that came largely at the expense of riding mowers with 22 hp or more.
Based on NPD Group’s data, the person most likely to buy a mower meets the following conditions: lives in the South, earns less than $30,000 a year, is aged 18 to 34 years and is male. In fact, the percentage of males has grown in each of the last three years, finishing 2011 at 71.1%.
Consumers increasingly are looking for bargains, as the purchase motivator “on sale/special promotion” increased 2.1 percentage points among reasons for purchase of a mower. No other motivator increased more in 2011, and “Price” remains the No. 1 purchase motivator, and growing. “Trusted brand” is ranked second, but it fell the most in 2011, down 4.4 percentage points from 2010.
Methodology: NPD data are based on monthly tracking of more than 30 home improvement-related categories and 30,000 opt-in consumers.
*2011 data reflect the period January 2011 through December 2011.
**Key: WHC: warehouse home center; MM: mass merchant; DS: department store; SS: specialty store; HS: hardware store
***More than one answer accepted
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