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Moody’s is optimistic about the outlook for the global forest products industry in 2021.

“Our 2021 outlook for the global paper and forest products industry is positive. We expect earnings growth across all subsectors following a rebound in economic activity and the flow through of higher paper packaging and pulp prices,” says Ed Sustar, Moody’s senior vice-president, in a statement.

“Demand will increase across most products in 2021, to the global GDP growth and increasing home construction and renovating and remodeling activity.”

The credit rating agency expects EBITDA across the global sector to increase by more than four per cent.

Regionally, the outlook for the paper and forest products industry is stable in North America and Europe and positive in Latin America.

Market pulp

The outlook for the market pulp subsector is positive, as prices and demand will be higher than 2020 trough levels. EBITDA is expected to increase by more than 15 per cent.

Hardwood pulp prices will rebound as producers work through excess inventory, and softwood pulp prices will trend upward due to increased demand. New capacity isn’t expected to come online until late 2021.

China will also be looking for market pulp should the country proceed with its ban on imports of recovered paper in 2021.

Paper packaging and tissue

The outlook for the paper packaging and tissue subsector is stable, driven by the flow-through of recently announced price increases in containerboard, coated and uncoated boxboard, and coated unbleached boxboard. EBITDA is expected to increase by about three per cent.

Higher e-commerce box demand will offset the decline in demand from other segments.

Moody’s also expects that new tissue capacity coming online will limit price increases.

Commodity and specialty paper

The outlook for the commodity and specialty paper subsector is stable, reflecting a rebound in paper consumption following the partial reopening of schools and businesses.

Moody’s expects that there will be increased demand for paper-based hygiene products, such as wipes, and paper-based alternatives to replace single-use plastics.

EBITDA will increase by about one per cent.

Wood products

The outlook for the wood products and timberland subsector is stable with ongoing growth in home construction.

Wood product prices will remain mostly flat in 2021 as demand and supply evens out, and log prices in the southern U.S. will stay flat due to excess inventory.

EBITDA is expected to increase by about two percent.

The outlook for the timber and wood products subsector has changed to positive from negative as well, with operating earnings of Moody’s nine rated companies primarily driven by timberland or wood product operations increasing about 8% over the next 12 months.

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