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Market Recap: RISI Crow’s Construction Materials Cost Index

BY HBSDEALER Staff

A price index of lumber and panels used in actual construction for June 29, 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: Trading in SPF lumber markets remained slow, leaving prices with nowhere to go but downward. The deepest discounts were extended to buyers looking for prompt shipping volumes. Wholesalers tried to clean up positions before the upcoming holidays in both Canada and the U.S. Treaters remained on the fringes of the Southern Pine lumber market, leaving most prices susceptible to declines. Production schedules varied for the week of July 2, with some mills scheduled to take downtime the entire week. Improved demand for Coastal species lumber allowed mills to firm prices as the week progressed in response to tighter product availability. Improved activity late in the week helped Inland lumber producers add some firmness to their prices. The activity was not, however, enough to bring prices back to the previous week’s levels. Eastern White Pine board producers were open to counters in order to compete with other lower priced species. Order files declined. Producers reported steady sales of ESLP #2&Btr at established levels. Market activity for Ponderosa Pine boards remained lackluster, as buyers only made purchases for must-have items. Weakness in 1×12 prevailed, with #2&Btr being the most difficult item to move. Steady sales for Ponderosa Pine Mldg&Btr were reported, and 5/4 and 6/4. Very light demand from door and window producers forced mills to discount upper grades of both 5/4 and 6/4 prices remained firm. Demand for Radiata Pine Mldg&Btr quieted, which gave producers an opportunity to catch up on late shipments. Availability of Shop was scarce. Extremely hot weather in some parts of the U.S. was given credit for a slightly slower pace to the Western Red Cedar market. Despite fewer sales, some producers noted that the call-to-sales ratio was good.

Panels: OSB market activity was reportedly better in the North Central and western zones, but the overall pace was still on the quiet side in all regions. Producers relied on their order files to help keep prices firm, although some discounting was reported in all regions. Sales activity in the Southern Pine plywood market improved for producers, particularly after midweek, enabling them to push order files past the holiday week and into 7/9-7/16. Distributors replenished inventories. A somewhat pedestrian trading pace was established in the Western Fir plywood market, but producers continued to have the upper hand. Buyers were much more interested in purchasing prompt shipping volumes, which often drew premium prices for mills. Canadian plywood producers reported steady phone activity, although many of the calls were from customers checking on the status of orders. Mill order files out to the last week of July kept control of the market firmly in the hands of producers. MDF sales remained very strong and particleboard activity was described by most market players as "steady."

For more on RISI, click here

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Amazon begins sales tax collection in Texas

BY Ken Clark

Described as a big win for advocates of a level retail playing field, Amazon.com began collecting sales tax in Texas July 1.

“A true free market is devoid of government preferences and special treatment,” said Sandy Kennedy, president of the Retail Industry Leaders Association (RILA). “Texas has made a powerful statement that it’s time to end special treatment for online retailers and close the sales tax loophole that gives companies like Amazon an artificial leg up on Main Street retailers.”

Home Channel News readers have weighed in on the issue and are largely in support of a level playing field. 

Eight states have followed Texas’ lead and passed legislation or taken administrative action in the past year to help level the retail playing field by requiring online retailers like Amazon to collect sales tax.   California and Pennsylvania are up next, with both states requiring Amazon to collect sales tax in September. New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell recently struck agreements with Amazon in their respective states, with Amazon beginning sales tax collection next year.

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Study: Pay is top reason key employees quit

BY SHRM online staff

As the economy begins to improve, employers across the board are finding it more difficult to retain key talent — employees who are the strongest performers, have high potential or are in critical jobs. That’s among the findings revealed by a survey of primarily U.S.-based mid-level to senior-level rewards professionals, as reported in Retention of Key Talent and the Role of Rewards, a report published in June 2012 by WorldatWork, an association of total rewards professionals. The survey was a collaboration by WorldatWork, pay consultancy Hay Group and Dow Scott, Ph.D., professor of human resources at Loyola University Chicago.

A majority of respondents (83%) thought that failure to retain key talent is “very costly,” and two out of three agreed that retention of key talent is a major concern of senior management, the study revealed.

Survey participants reported that the top reason key talent quits is to get more pay elsewhere. Other reasons include a lack of promotional opportunities, the perception that pay is unfair, and dissatisfaction with job and work responsibilities.

“Talent wars are going to become intense, not just this year but for at least a decade, because jobs are becoming more complex and demanding, Baby Boomers are retiring and Generation X has far fewer people who can fill this gap, and other countries are retaining their most talented people with great job opportunities of their own,” Scott said.

Tom McMullen, North America reward practice leader for Hay Group, added, “Top talent can easily compare the deal or pay package they get from their employer with other organizations through Salary.com, Vault.com and O’net.gov, etc. If a company is to survive and hopefully thrive in the next decade, it must learn how to recruit, develop and retain key talent.”

Effective and ineffective efforts

According to respondents, the most effective methods for retaining key talent are:

• Identifying key employees and discussing with them their future opportunities with the organization.
• Paying key employees above the labor market.
• Allowing flexible hours or telecommuting.

The least effective employee retention methods are:

• Providing tuition reimbursement and other educational opportunities.
• Providing pay communications, including total compensation statements.
• Assigning mentors for key employees.

“Rewards professionals are under increased pressure to make counteroffers, increase new-hire offers and offer special deals to retain key employees,” said Kerry Chou, practice leader at WorldatWork. “The most successful organizations moving forward will be those that develop a clear definition of what is considered key talent, identify them and make a concerted effort to ensure that those employees are satisfied with the rewards system.”

Respondents represented publicly traded companies (47%), privately held companies (26%) and public-sector and not-for-profit organizations (26%). Survey responses were gathered from Dec. 15, 2011, to Jan. 15, 2012.

Have HR-related questions and concerns? Get access to essential forms, policies and guides, plus a live call center, at ToolkitHR.com, powered by HCN and the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM).

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