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Retail container traffic to be flat in January, increasing in spring

BY HBSDEALER Staff

A report released Thursday by the National Retail Federation and Hackett Associates said import cargo volume at the nation’s major retail container ports should be nearly flat during January compared with the same month last year, but significant year-over-year increases are expected this spring.

“We’re headed into the slow season for cargo shipments, but forecasts indicate that retailers will be stocking up this spring in anticipation of a moderate recovery as the year progresses,” said NRF VP supply chain and customs policy Jonathan Gold. “Cargo volume doesn’t translate directly into sales volume, but when retailers import more it’s because they expect to sell more.”

U.S. ports followed by Global Port Tracker handled 1.25 million Twenty-foot Equivalent Units in November, the latest month for which after-the-fact numbers are available. That was down 2.1% from October, since most holiday merchandise was already on the shelves, but up 1.2% from November 2010. One TEU is one 20-foot cargo container or its equivalent.

December was estimated at 1.21 million TEU, up 5.9% from a year ago. January 2012 is forecast at 1.21 million TEU, up one-tenth of 1% from January 2011. February, historically the slowest month of the year, is forecast at 1.06 million TEU, down 3.3% from a year ago. March is forecast at 1.2 million TEU, up 10.5% from last year; April at 1.26 million TEU, up 3.8%; and May at 1.3 million TEU, up 0.9%.

The total for 2011 was estimated 14.86 million TEU, up 0.7% from 2010’s 14.75 million TEU.

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Industry Dashboard for Jan. 16, 2012

BY HBSDEALER Staff

Unadjusted NAICS 44413 hardware store sales hit $1.74 billion in November, up from last year and last month. Elsewhere on the Dashboard, gas prices crept upward.

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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 Jan. 13, 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: Buyers showed little interest in purchasing SPF volumes prior to the expiration of January’s futures contract on Friday. A March contract trading below January’s was given much of the credit for slow trading. Buyers reported little desire among mills to ex-pit, even though mill order files were quickly eroding. Southern Pine lumber producers experienced what many deemed "good follow-through" from increased demand levels the week prior. As a result, dimension prices again increased by double digits. Buyers scoured the market for 2×12 #2, but tight supplies made that dimension difficult to source. Lumber traders in the Coastal market experienced a solid week of trading. Producers sold relatively strong volumes, while wholesalers managed to sell from positions at a good clip. Prices throughout both dry and green items rarely adjusted more than $5. Long lengths remained strong, prompting higher price levels. Hem-Fir/White Fir remained the bright spot in the Inland lumber market while Fir-Larch struggled to get traction. Limited Ponderosa Pine production helped keep prices firm in Selects and Commons. Mills with good selection were able to hold or, in some instances, move prices up slightly. Limited volumes of Idaho White Pine were available, and most consisted of scattered tallies. Prices were mostly unchanged. Eastern White Pine sales were light but steady, and prices were close to last week’s levels. Sellers of Radiata Pine Mldg&Btr and Shop reported a quiet pace to the market, but prices remained at published levels. Availability of Shop was still tight. Western Red Cedar sales were slow yet steady, helped by continued mild winter weather throughout much of the United States and Canada. Prices held overall. Production ramped up to cover both orders and forecasted sales for the first quarter.

Panels: OSB producers reported a strong finish to the market, more in the West than the East. Availability at week’s end was limited, as some mills went off the market. Order files were out as far as Feb. 6. Although not at the pace as the previous week, demand for Southern Pine plywood was strong enough to propel many rated sheathing prices $15 to $25 higher. Other increases exceeded that range by a wide margin. More producers moved order files into early February. Sales activity slowed in the Western Fir plywood market from the more frenetic pace a week earlier, although selling a week’s worth of production was accomplished. Order files in the weeks of Jan. 23 and 30 were common. Sales in the Canadian plywood market were made at levels above and below the most recent published price. MDF and particleboard customers continued to replenish inventories at the beginning of the new year, seeing their own orders increase.

For more on RISI, click here

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