North American softwood lumber prices keep climbing as industry looks to 2021

Madison Lumber Reporter
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At a time of year when housing construction across North America is usually slowing down to very limited activity, thus softwood lumber prices are usually quite soft, in the past couple of weeks there has been a resurgence of strong demand for solid wood products. Prices of dimension lumber commodities have responded upward accordingly.

Underpinning the hot lumber sales and rising prices is continued extremely rosy US home sales and house price data. Lumber manufacturers in Canada and the US are experiencing such strong demand that sawmill order files are pushing out into the start of next year. Forest industry veterans and home builders with 40 years experience alike have never seen this situation toward year-end. All agree, however, that home sales, house prices, and home building will not reverse direction any time soon. Madison’s expects a hot US housing market to last at least to the end of 2021.

Western S-P-F purveyors in the United States were chuffed with a strong week to start December. Buyers were frequently in the mix to shore up their empty inventories thus sawmills pushed their order files into late-December or early-January 2021. Prices continued to climb and buyers had no choice but to participate, as downstream consumption was uncharacteristically robust considering the time of year. Players use American Thanksgiving as an important litmus test for the market. The result this year appeared to be more vigourous demand than many had expected.

Canadian producers of Western S-P-F lumber reported another good week as prices on every dimension item climbed yet again. Relentless demand persisted as Canuck sawmills sold out so quickly each morning that the US cash market didn’t see a stick of bread and butter lumber items on offer. Resultant order files on all items were into the first week of January 2021.

Rising again at a time of year when prices are usually soft, for the week ending December 4, 2020 the price of benchmark softwood lumber commodity item Western S-P-F KD 2x4 #2&Btr was up another +$32, or +5%, over the previous week to US$652 mfbm, said Madison’s Lumber Reporter. Last week's price is +$72, or +12%, more than it was one month ago. Compared to one year ago, this price is up +$258, or +65%.

Compared to the 1-year rolling average price of US$547 mfbm, last week Western S-P-F KD 2x4 #2&Btr was selling for +$105, or +19% more, and was up +$193, or +42%, compared to the 2-year rolling average price of US$459 mfbm.

The below table is a comparison of recent highs, in June 2018, and current December 2020 benchmark dimension Softwood Lumber 2x4 prices compared to historical highs of 2004/05 and compared to recent lows of September 2015:

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