2020 has been an unprecedented year in more ways than we can count. In a year overwhelmingly dominated by headlines about COVID-19, global civil unrest, and continued political and economic uncertainty (just to name a few), it’s a wonder any of us have the bandwidth to digest the stories and developments that impact our industry.
The global forest products industry has undergone some significant changes this year – some expected, some unexpected – but the industry as a whole has emerged from a tumultuous year in a relatively strong position. In light of these changes, we wanted to take an opportunity to look back and see which topics resonated the most with visitors to Forest2Market’s MarketWatch blog in 2020.
It’s also a wonderful opportunity to offer our sincere gratitude to the contributors and regular readers of our blog and newsletters. We are delighted that you find continued value in our content.
We wish you a safe, warm, and joyous holiday season and we look forward to providing you with fresh industry insights and meaningful content in 2021.
The Top 7 Most Popular Blog Posts of 2020
Recent swings in wood fiber demand resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic are vivid examples of the importance of staying up to date with developing trends in timber markets. For instance, the huge demand shift for tissue products coupled with the slowdown in construction over the last several months presented an ideal time to market and sell timber from young pine stands. Likewise, there will also be good sales opportunities for older pine sawtimber as new home construction gets back on track over the next few months.
Last week, southern yellow pine (SYP) lumber prices continued a precipitous drop for the fifth week in a row, marking the single largest weekly change—in both dollars and as a percentage—of 2020. Forest2Market’s composite SYP lumber price for the week ending October 16 (week 42) was $569/MBF, a 17.5% decrease (and $121 drop) from the previous week’s price of $690/MBF.
After experiencing a wild ride during 1Q2019, southern timber prices diverged by product type a year later in 1Q2020. It’s important to note that the price trends from this period largely do not include the impacts that the COVID-19 pandemic has had on regional stumpage markets, which will be more evident in 3Q and 4Q. The overall trend of all timber products was up slightly in the first quarter of 2020, as the weighted average price per ton increased +2.8 percent. While all pine products were up, hardwood products continued to demonstrate a significant drop in price.
After blasting past the previous all-time high achieved in 2018, southern yellow pine (SYP) lumber prices are now at new record highs... by big margins. To put the number in perspective, Forest2Market’s composite SYP lumber price for the week ending August 14 was $798/MBF, which represents a 39% increase over the previous all-time high of $576/MBF that was achieved in June 2018. Such a price run-up also prompts a popular question: When lumber prices hit record highs, shouldn’t log costs go up too?
Hopes of a US-China trade deal might breathe new life into pulp prices, or they might fall flat as continued uncertainty takes a toll. Global GDP growth in 2020 is expected to be in the 2% range so short of some unexpected, good news, supply will still outpace demand. Expect pulp market weakness in 2020 without some big policy development or global economic shift on the horizon.
When it comes to the issue of managing America’s forests, environmental and economic concerns can often seem incompatible. Those unfamiliar with forestry and silviculture practices oftentimes approach this subject believing that there is either one advantage or the other, but not both.
This simply isn’t true, and any claim that America’s trees are used for anything less than their full potential is ill informed. Landowners manage their forests to maximize tree growth and their return on investment while at the same time providing wildlife habitat, protecting water quality, sequestering carbon and supporting a host of other environmental benefits.
As Forest2Market data has confirmed over the last several years, log and lumber prices in the Pacific Northwest (PNW) can often result in a significant disconnect. When North American lumber prices peaked in tandem with log prices in 2Q2018, lumber prices then corrected course and plunged for five straight months before hitting a floor in December 2018. Only recently have log prices found some sense of equilibrium in the wake of the crash.