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September retail sales jump 1.1%, beating forecasts

BY HBSDEALER Staff

U.S. retail sales in September grew at their fastest pace in six months, beating forecasts and rising 1.1%, the Commerce Department reported. Excluding the auto sector, sales rose 0.6%, also better than expected. The increase gave retailers renewed hope for the upcoming holiday season. 

The Commerce Department also reported that sales for August, which were originally reported as unchanged, were revised up to a 0.3% increase.

“Consumers remain relatively resilient,” said Ryan Sweet, a senior economist at Moody’s Analytics in West Chester, Pa., in a Bloomberg report. “It’s evident they don’t want to cut back on spending. It’s going to be a decent but not spectacular holiday shopping season.”

The September increase came amid higher purchases of autos, clothing and home furnishings.

Ten of 13 major categories showed increases last month. Apparel sales rose 1.3%, the largest increase in seven months. Sales of home furnishings were also strong, up 1.1%. Purchases at automobile dealers climbed 3.6%, the most since March 2010.

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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 Oct. 14, 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 did not see much in the way of follow-through from the prior week, when prices bounced off of early lows. Western 2×4 #2&Btr remained at $240, while wider widths were also able to hold previous levels. Quiet Southern Pine lumber trading prompted producers to again seek sales at lower price levels. As a result, bearish buyers purchased enough volumes to cover immediate needs, sensing the potential for further declines. Those Coastal species lumber mills having the greatest volume of production to move had to discount some items, while other producers held quotes near prior levels. Growing Utility/#3 supplies were discounted aggressively. In spite of light field inventories, Inland species lumber producers were unable to hold prices. In order to move any kind of volume, producers had to discount aggressively. Secondaries maintained a mostly neutral position, with few open orders and rollers to deal with. Ponderosa Pine board production remained in close proximity to demand. Inland board producers reported steady business at current prices, but traders reported a quiet week of sales to home centers. A lack of activity might have been the incentive for a dramatic reduction in Radiata Pine Mldg&Btr prices. While Radiata Pine 5/4 is vulnerable, 6/4 is holding its price at $1,235 to $1,250. Western Red Cedar buyers rarely contacted producers, other than when they were ready to purchase. As long as prices were at or near market levels, customers purchased hand-to-mouth volumes.

Panels: Some regional improvement in OSB market was reported. The North Central and Far West regions saw an increase in activity and price appreciation. Prices in the Southwest were firm on modest volumes. Rated sheathing prices in the Southern Pine plywood market were shaped by a particular mill’s need to move volumes. The greatest urgency to sell came out of the East zone, where mills discounted, trying to keep up with rated sheathing production. Weak demand and scant order files prompted more aggressive attempts by Western Fir plywood mills to attract buyers. As a result, market price levels for CDX items dropped $10 to $20 in several instances. Buyers often wanted deeper discounts in order to step in to buy. By most accounts, the Canadian plywood market this week was uneventful. Mill order files were out to the week of Oct. 24, although some quicker shipping wood was beginning to appear. Sales of particleboard and MDF have increased for some producers in recent weeks, particularly those in the East and South, but only marginally and not enough to nudge prices higher.

For more on RISI, click here.

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Industry Dashboard for Oct. 17, 2011

BY HBSDEALER Staff

The U.S. Census Bureau’s monthly survey shows unadjusted August sales for both NAICS 444 and 44413 are up compared with last year, and slightly up compared with last month. 

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