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North American Softwood Lumber Prices Lose Ground Amid Market Uncertainty

October 24, 2019
Author: Keta Kosman

Now is a time of heightened uncertainty for the North American construction framing dimension softwood lumber market, as the price of most lumber items last week moderated downward compared to one month ago. Wild upward price swings from early 2018 have been followed by dizzying drops this year. Marginally improving US housing starts data, disruptions to timber harvests in the Pacific Northwest (PNW), and a large reduction in Canada’s sawmill capacity utilization rates are just some of the recent changes to the forest industry.

Last week’s gathering of Canadian and US lumber traders at the annual North American Wholesale Lumbermen’s Association (NAWLA), in San Antonio, TX, was extremely well-attended by enthusiastic participants from sawmills and wholesalers alike. Even after all the information sessions and networking events, industry insiders started this week no less confused by the lumber market than they have been since Labor Day.

As if the volatile swings in lumber prices during a usually muted time of year weren’t enough, further drama is unfolding this week with the continued softwood lumber dispute in Washington, DC. Currently, the US International Trade Commission (ITC) is seeking public comments related to “… any subsidies, including stumpage subsidies, provided by certain countries exporting softwood lumber or softwood lumber products to the United States during the period January 1, 2019, through June 30, 2019,” as noted by the multinational law firm Baker McKenzie.

Benchmark North American softwood lumber products demonstrated the pervasive unpredictability:

  • Western Spruce-Pine-Fir KD 2x4 #2&Btr actually gained last week (+$2 to $370 mfbm) but dropped -$12 versus a month ago. However, compared to a year ago, this price is up +$14, or nearly 4 percent.
  • Eastern Spruce-Pine-Fir KD 2x4 #2&Btr lost ground last week (-$5 to $450 mfbm) and dropped -$15 versus a month ago. However, compared to a year ago, this price is up +$20, or nearly 5 percent.



Last week, sellers of Kiln-Dried Douglas-fir commodities reported a noticeable groundswell of demand that resulted in higher sales volumes, and business only improved as the week wore on. Buyers repeatedly returned to the table, sensing a strengthening trend in the market, and so they finally moved to fill gaping holes in their inventories. Sawmills in the PNW pushed their order files on dimension items into the month of November, while production times for studs were still roughly at a week out.


On-Demand Market Data

Madison’s Lumber Reporter allows customers to tailor an individual weekly lumber report to their own needs. Interactive filters can be saved for quick and easy drill-downs to the exact products you need to make decisions, and these views can be printed and downloaded. Other highlights include:

  • All prices are available on a single screen.
  • A single click takes subscribers to a Product Detail page with two years of price history and the ability to look at pricing in comparison to economic indicators (housing starts, GDP, etc.).
  • Toggle between prices and commentary (commentary and data are matched at every point).
  • The Price Sheet can be filtered, searched and sorted.
  • Comparisons of current week's prices to previous time periods, including one- and two-year rolling averages, are provided.
  • Custom Analysis—comparisons of historical prices for multiple products over a ten-year history—can be performed as needed.
  • The current week's commentary is provided in an easy-to-read narrative format, organized by topic.

Is your current lumber report this easy to use?

View a video demo or visit the website to learn more about Madison's Lumber Reporter.


Madison's Lumber Reporter


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