June 29, 2020

Lumber markets resumed their upward tear last week, with prices moving up on all items and species.  We have heard a number of reasons that prices keep going up such as:  logging restrictions due to flooding in the northwest, limited rail car availability due to coronavirus shut downs, trucking problems in the west due to the movement of produce, better-than-expected demand for ongoing construction projects, strong demand from the DIY and remodeling sector, treated lumber shortages due to pine mill closures in April and May, and better-than-expected building permits in May.  It is hard to admit, but we were caught off-guard last week, as we were expecting demand to soften going into the 4th of July holiday.  2×4 #2 SPF prices jumped by a whopping $40 per mbf.  Higher-quality #2 DF and WF were almost impossible to find, and prices on these items moved up by another $30.  2×4 MSR lumber has become extremely hard to find, and prices moved up by another $30.  Most MSR producers are now over-sold and off-the-market on carload offers.  2×6 prices moved up at around the same pace as 2×4.  2×8 and wider lumber, which was readily available in the west just a month ago, has become nearly impossible to find, and the mills are now sold out to the week of 7/27.  Shop lumber prices also moved up by about $20 per mbf, in sympathy with all other lumber items.  Low grade lumber prices were strong, and supply was limited.

Panel markets were surprisingly strong last week, even though mill order files were not nearly as deep as lumber.  OSB prices moved up another $15 per msf out of all producing regions.  By Friday afternoon, carload prices of 4×8 7/16” were being quoted around $365 delivered into major markets in the southwest.  This pushed truckload offerings to over $400 per msf, FOB delivered into some cities and towns.  We spent a good part of the day on Friday trying to secure some prompt loads, to no avail.  Plywood rated sheathing and CDX prices skyrocketed on strong demand and limited supply.  4×8 15/32” SYP Rated sheathing mills were off the market by Thursday, after raising prices by $30 to $40 per msf.  Prices for premium and specialty products such as AC panels and plyform products remained mostly unchanged, but we expect that to change soon, as a rising tide tends to lift all boats.

Steel markets did not follow the strength of panel and lumber markets, and prices for concrete reinforcing products remained flat.  Rebar prices were unchanged, but we did start to see some mills sell out of their on-hand stock and start quoting for 2-3 weeks out, based on their rolling schedules.  We think that steel prices might be hitting a bottom, and we are trying to secure some tonnage for late July and August.  Remesh prices were flat, but just like rebar, they might be at their bottom.