The USA purchases approximately 65% of Canadian lumber production mostly for construction framing, while Canadian buyers account for about 10%, and those in Japan take 6%.
However: US and Canadian customers purchase mostly standard grades (#2&Btr), while Japan buys almost exclusively premium or “appearance” grades (J-grade) which sells for quite a bit more than standard grade does.
US Housing Total Starts May 2020 & Benchmark Softwood Lumber Prices June 2020
For the week ending June 12, 2020, prices of most standard construction framing dimension softwood lumber items remained flat, with benchmark item Western Spruce Pine Fir KD 2×4 #2&Btr still at US$378 mfbm, as the week before. The price for this benchmark lumber commodity was up +$18, or +5% from one month ago. Compared to the same week in 2019 when it was US$376, this price is up +$2, or +1%.
Dropping slightly from one year ago, last week’s Western S-P-F 2×4 price fell -$3, or -1%, relative to the 1-year rolling average price of US$381 mfbm and was down -$19, or -5%, relative to the 2-year rolling average price of US$397 mfbm.
US Housing Starts: May 2020
Privately-owned US housing starts in May were at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 974,000, the Commerce Department said Wednesday. This is +4.3% above the revised April estimate of 934,000, but is -23.2% below the May 2019 rate of 1,268,000. The May 2020 increase recouped only a fraction of the more than -40% cumulative decline in homebuilding in March and April.
“The stock of houses under construction fell -1.4% to 1,172 million units, the lowest since November 2019.” — US Commerce Department
Single-family housing starts in May were at a rate of 675,000; this is +0.1% above the revised April figure of 674,000. The May rate for units in buildings with five units or more was 291,000.
Single-family building permits increased +12% to a rate of 745,000 units in May. Permits for multi-family units surged +19% to a rate of 475,000 units.
Benchmark Softwood Lumber Prices: June 2020
Softwood Lumber Prices Stabilize Even as Inventories Remain Weak
After a wild ride down then up over the past few months, most standard construction framing dimension softwood lumber prices stabilized last week, to levels both producers and customers are comfortable with. Inventories remain spotty as sawmill production is still constrained and buyers continue to look for highly specified loads only.
Purveyors of Western Spruce-Pine-Fir commodities in the United States described last week as similar to the previous one as most customers had their near-term needs covered and continued to be careful in their dealings. Players reported good consumption levels in Western and Southwestern states.
The largest producers of Western SPF in Canada noted that business came in fits and starts last week. Around midweek a large block of 2×4 R/L #2&Btr was snapped up with alacrity, but the remainder of the week was more focussed on digestion, as field inventories weren’t as depleted as usual. Order files were now into the week of July 3rd on most items, with sawmills running two- to three-weeks late on existing orders.
US Housing 1-Unit Starts May 2020 & Benchmark Softwood Lumber Prices June 2020
Shrewd investors know that construction framing softwood lumber prices are a good leading indicator for US housing activity, including home building and home sales. Don’t miss out, get lumber price data updates directly to your desktop every Friday morning:
Madison’s Lumber Prices, weekly, are a good forecast indicator of US home builder’s current lumber buying activity ——> DETAILS