Lumber prices will fall back to pre-pandemic levels within a year amid considerable volatility, investment chief says

Worker loading lumber
  • The price of lumber futures has fallen to its lowest level since November 2020, erasing this year’s dizzying gains.
  • An investment chief says the price of the commodity could reach its pre-pandemic level in the next 12 months.
  • He added, however, that the price trends will vary by geography.
  • Sign up here for our daily newsletter, 10 Things Before the Opening Bell.

Prices for lumber futures have descended to levels not seen since November 2020, erasing this year’s dizzying gains amid a cooling demand for the red-hot commodity.

Lumber prices fell for the 10th consecutive week to trade at $536 per thousand board feet – 67% lower from their May 7 peak of $1,670 per thousand board feet. Around a year ago, the commodity was hovering just above $400.

Despite weeks of decline, there is likely room to fall further, said Stuart Katz, CIO at wealth management firm Robert Stephens. He said the price of the commodity could reach its pre-pandemic level in the next 12 months, but whether prices remain at that level is the real question.

“This is a dynamic economy,” he said. He added that in order to predict the price of lumber, one must make a number of assumptions about the Federal Reserve’s monetary policy and the ability of home builders to pass along price increases or take margin compressions.

“You can’t lean on history when you turn off and then reopen the largest economy on the face of the earth,” Katz said. “No one has the crystal ball, so you need to look at the key fundamentals which provide push and pull pressures on, ultimately, the equilibrium of the price.”

One thing he is certain of is that the price trends will vary by geography.

“There may be regional aspects of this,” Katz said. “There’s an aggregate lumber price but because of some of the secular trends in home building and multifamily units … I could see there being local geographic tensions and price that would maybe make it more elevated than if you went to broad headline price.”

Katz said the Sunbelt states could continue to see heightened lumber prices as people move to the region from other parts of the US and drive up demand for housing.

Lumber prices at the start of the year surged, triggered by factors including concerns about an overheating housing market and millennials reaching home-buying age. But the main culprit behind its astronomical rally was the pandemic.

“I think it’s difficult to imagine a set of facts to support lumber prices going in excess of $1,600 per thousand for feet in the absence of the circumstances of the COVID crisis,” he said.

For some experts, the lumber phenomenon was a long time coming, especially given the chronic shortage of affordable homes for sale in the US.

Still, lumber wasn’t the only commodity that rallied this year despite the heightened interest. Many others from oil to copper also gained due in large part to distorted supply chains.

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Lumber prices continue to fall, and are headed to as low as $350 by August, an analyst says

Lumber prices sawmill US logs wood
Lumber prices plummeted in June.

Lumber futures are sliding after brief pop last week, falling 21% in the last five days as the hot commodity comes down from dizzying highs.

The price of lumber is trading at $642 per thousand board feet, roughly 62% lower from its May 7 peak of $1,670 per thousand board feet.

But the downtrend after scaling to unprecedented highs should be expected, said Troy Merkel, partner and senior real estate analyst at Chicago-based consulting firm RSM. He said he expects the price of the commodity to moderate, especially as supply chains normalize and recover after the last year of the pandemic.

By the end of August and into early September, he told Insider the price of lumber may settle between $350-$450 per thousand board feet due to a confluence of factors, including sawmills slowly reopening and vaccination rates rising.

And while Merkel still sees headwinds for the industry, especially when it comes to labor, he said he is optimistic the market will normalize by the end of the year.

Experts, including Merkel, have long sounded the alarm of a chronic shortage of affordable and available homes in the US.

“People took for granted the prices of lumber,” Merkel told Insider.

The spike in the price of lumber on its own has added $36,000 to the average price of a new home, according to the National Association of Home Builders.

A June 2021 report by the Rosen Consulting Group, a real estate economics consulting firm, found that more than two million housing units need to be built per year in the next decade in order to fill an underbuilding gap of at least 5.5 million housing units.

Homebuilding would need to accelerate to a pace that is well above the current trend, the study said.

But for some, like David Russell, VP of market intelligence at TradeStation Group, an online broker-dealer, the whole market “distortion” of lumber was an aberration caused by the pandemic.

“I think in some ways lumber is really just toilet paper, 2.0. It’s just a symptom of a totally weird situation that has almost never happened in history,” he told Insider. “This recession was caused by something totally external.”

Russell said prices will normalize by the end of the year, though he does not think they will return to pre-pandemic level.

“The likelihood of this happening again is very low,” he said. “This happened exactly because no one thought it was going to happen.”

A number of commodities have surged in part because of distorted supply chains during the pandemic, but lumber in particular has captured people’s attention. When asked why people have been focused on lumber over other commodities, Merkel said: “At the end of the day, people need a place to live. Housing has a personal feel, whether you’re an analyst or a prospective homebuyer.”

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Lumber prices just dropped for a 9th straight week amid slowing DIY spending

lumber and building materials store
  • Lumber prices notch their ninth consecutive weekly loss after a brief resurgence earlier in the week.
  • The price of the key building material has slid about 60% from its peak in early May.
  • A shift in spending away from DIY home projects is impacting the market, says Bank of America.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Prices for lumber suffered another weekly loss and descended to levels not seen in roughly six months as the market contends with signs of softening demand and easing shortages.

Lumber prices on Friday fell about 4% to trade at $689 per thousand board feet. That move brought lumber below $700 for the first time since mid-January. Lumber during the holiday-shortened week had pushed higher, stoking the possibility of finding relief. But the advances proved short-lived, leading to the material notching its ninth consecutive weekly loss.

Prices have tumbled by roughly 60% since their peak of $1,670 per thousand board feet on May 7.

One potential factor in pushing lumber lower is consumers allocating funds to businesses such as those specializing in hospitality and travel as more Americans get vaccinated against COVID-19. About 48% of the population has been fully vaccinated, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“Our recent research … suggests a combination of high housing and wood product prices and the shift of expenditures to services in the reopening (from do-it-yourself [DIY] home projects) has negatively impacted new and repair/remodel construction expenditures,” wrote Bank of America analysts on Friday.

Meanwhile, dealers and builders are likely decelerating purchases leading up to a slowdown in construction that’s typical in summer months, they said. “This is especially true given long lead times – the concern being that today’s order of lumber shows up at the beginning of August just as prices move down at an even stronger pace.”

Signs of easing in lumber shortages have also fostered the pullback in prices. Sawmills have reportedly ramped up output after the pandemic prompted producers to stop work.

Lumber prices leapt to nearly $1,700 this year in part on a surge in demand for the building material as people stuck at home by the pandemic took up home improvement projects.

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Tumbling lumber prices are a sign that strong inflation will be temporary, Bank of England boss says

Lumber prices sawmill US logs wood
Lumber prices plummeted in June.

  • The plunge in lumber prices is a sign strong inflation should fade, the Bank of England’s governor said.
  • Andrew Bailey is among the central bankers to argue that inflationary pressures should be temporary.
  • Lumber prices soared but then tumbled 45% in June as sawmills upped production and demand slipped.
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The dramatic fall in lumber prices in the last month is a sign that strong inflation will be temporary, the governor of the Bank of England said on Thursday.

Lumber futures soared in the first few months of the year before dropping more than 40% in June. Prices peaked at more than $1,670 per thousand board feet of lumber in early May, but have since plummeted to around $760.

The drop is a sign that pandemic-driven booms in certain sectors will wear off as economies rebalance and supply catches up with demand, Bank of England Governor Andrew Bailey said in a speech on Thursday.

“We are seeing rebounds and normalisation of some commodity prices,” Bailey said. “In the US, lumber prices having risen sharply, are now retracting a sizeable part of that rise.”

“There are plenty of stories of supply chain constraints on commodities and transport bottlenecks, much of which ought to be temporary.”

Read more: An ex-Goldman trader breaks down why he is ‘salivating’ to buy the dip in grain stocks – and shares 5 stocks and an ETF to play the commodity supercycle

In the UK, year-on-year inflation jumped to a two-year high of 2.1% in May. In the US, year-on-year inflation hit a 13-year high of 5% in the same month.

But both Bank of England – the UK’s central bank – and the Federal Reserve argue that sharp price rises are a result of strong growth and bottlenecks in certain sectors. They say inflation will cool as growth slows, businesses adapt and people’s eagerness to spend wanes.

In the lumber market, analysts say prices are tumbling because people are spending less on home improvements as restrictions are lifted. Meanwhile, lumber producers have increased their supply.

However, not all analysts agree that falling prices in some sectors mean inflation will be temporary.

Hugh Gimber, global market strategist at JPMorgan Asset Management, said rising wages across economies as firms rehire workers could cause prices to rise more than expected.

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Lumber prices have bottomed out, but are likely to stay double the historical average for at least the next 5 years, trader says

A lumber yard
  • Lumber has probably found a bottom at current levels, but prices will remain over double the average for the next few years, Stinson Dean told Insider.
  • The Deacon Trading founder expects lumber to trade above $1,000 for potentially the next three to five years.
  • He added that the current state of the lumber futures curve confirms that lumber prices have bottomed.
  • Sign up here for our daily newsletter, 10 Things Before the Opening Bell.

Lumber price have probably found a bottom at current levels, but will remain higher than average for the next few years, a lumber trader told Insider.

Stinson Dean, CEO and founder of Deacon Trading, expects lumber to trade above $1000 for potentially the next three to five years. The historical average is around $400, he said.

“My argument is the new normal is going to be significantly higher than the old normal while others think we’re going to go back to pre-COVID price ranges,” Dean said.

After an intense run-up in the beginning of the year, Lumber has fallen nearly 50% from May’s record high of over $1,700 per thousand board feet.

“Business has slowed dramatically. There’s ample supply. So there’s just not pressure on buyers to cover those needs…they’ve bought enough to cover whatever needs they do have,” Dean said.

He added that the current state of the lumber futures curve confirms his take that lumber prices have bottomed out. The curve can give an indication of the health of the underlying supply and demand market, he said.

Lumber futures recently began trading in contango – a situation in commodities wherein the future price is higher than the spot price. For the past year, the futures curve was inverted and in backwardation, where the future price is cheaper.

The backwardation and subsequent premium on front-month futures occurred because everyone needed lumber as soon as possible, and they were willing to pay whatever price for it, said Dean.

“People didn’t care about two months down the road, they only cared about right now because they were in the middle of a short squeeze. They had to get covered,” he added.

Now, that dynamic has changed and supply is ample. Dean explained that the futures curve in contango isn’t bearish for lumber, but it’s not necessarily bullish. It means that supply and demand are normalizing, and an equilibrium is being found.

He expects lumber prices to average around $900, but remain volatile.

Over the next five years, he sees lumber trading around $1000.

“For the rest of 2021, the phrase I would use is grind higher,” Dean added. “I think we’ll start trading around above $1000 this fall and stay there.”

Before this fall, he sees prices staying muted until homebuilders begin to expand production and deliver more homes in the next quarter. What partly caused the prices to fall from the peak was that homebuilders began to slow down and lumberyards grew hesitant to lock in future business. Now that homebuilders’ near-term needs have been covered, there’s less of a scramble for wood.

Read more: ‘If lumber crashes, stocks might be next’: An award-winning portfolio manager who’s tracked lumber prices for years breaks down why futures hitting record highs is an ominous sign – and shares what investors can do ahead of the eventual crash

Read the original article on Business Insider

Lumber prices have bottomed out, but are likely to stay double the historical average for at least the next 5 years, a lumber trader says

A lumber yard
  • Lumber has probably found a bottom at current levels, but prices will remain over double the average for the next few years, Stinson Dean told Insider.
  • The Deacon Trading founder expects lumber to trade above $1,000 for potentially the next three to five years.
  • He added that the current state of the lumber futures curve confirms that lumber prices have bottomed.
  • Sign up here for our daily newsletter, 10 Things Before the Opening Bell.

Lumber price have probably found a bottom at current levels, but will remain higher than average for the next few years, a lumber trader told Insider.

Stinson Dean, CEO and founder of Deacon Trading, expects lumber to trade above $1000 for potentially the next three to five years. The historical average is around $400, he said.

“My argument is the new normal is going to be significantly higher than the old normal while others think we’re going to go back to pre-COVID price ranges,” Dean said.

After an intense run-up in the beginning of the year, Lumber has fallen nearly 50% from May’s record high of over $1,700 per thousand board feet.

“Business has slowed dramatically. There’s ample supply. So there’s just not pressure on buyers to cover those needs…they’ve bought enough to cover whatever needs they do have,” Dean said.

He added that the current state of the lumber futures curve confirms his take that lumber prices have bottomed out. The curve can give an indication of the health of the underlying supply and demand market, he said.

Lumber futures recently began trading in contango – a situation in commodities wherein the future price is higher than the spot price. For the past year, the futures curve was inverted and in backwardation, where the future price is cheaper.

The backwardation and subsequent premium on front-month futures occurred because everyone needed lumber as soon as possible, and they were willing to pay whatever price for it, said Dean.

“People didn’t care about two months down the road, they only cared about right now because they were in the middle of a short squeeze. They had to get covered,” he added.

Now, that dynamic has changed and supply is ample. Dean explained that the futures curve in contango isn’t bearish for lumber, but it’s not necessarily bullish. It means that supply and demand are normalizing, and an equilibrium is being found.

He expects lumber prices to average around $900, but remain volatile.

Over the next five years, he sees lumber trading around $1000.

“For the rest of 2021, the phrase I would use is grind higher,” Dean added. “I think we’ll start trading around above $1000 this fall and stay there.”

Before this fall, he sees prices staying muted until homebuilders begin to expand production and deliver more homes in the next quarter. What partly caused the prices to fall from the peak was that homebuilders began to slow down and lumberyards grew hesitant to lock in future business. Now that homebuilders’ near-term needs have been covered, there’s less of a scramble for wood.

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Lumber continues to skid below $900 with the commodity in free-fall from May highs

Saw mill.
Pieces of lumber are cut to size, to be used to assemble trusses for homes at Wasatch Truss on May 12, 2021 in Spanish Fork, Utah.

Lumber futures fell as much as 3% Wednesday to $859.8 per thousand board feet, extending the fall beneath $900 as the commodity’s rally continues to cool off.

Lumber prices surged throughout the pandemic as homebuilding boomed and supply tightened. Now, prices are trading nearly 50% below their May 10 peak of $1,711 per thousand board feet.

Over the past 12 months, however, lumber is still up over 107%.

Expanding supply is partly to blame for lumber’s recent downturn. US lumber production has jumped 5% over the past 12 months with another increase of 5% on the way, according to Domain Timber Advisors LLC, a subsidiary of Domain Capital Group, per Bloomberg.

Lumber’s soaring prices were one of the first indicators to many investors that inflation could be increasing too quickly as the economy climbed out of the pandemic. Now, lumber’s decline is signaling to some that inflation will prove to be temporary after all, as the US Federal Reserve has been insisting. Fed chief Jerome Powell reiterated this view in his press conference last week, and again at Tuesday’s congressional testimony.

“The thought is that prices like that, that have moved up really quickly because of shortages and bottlenecks and the like, they should stop going up. And at some point, they, in some cases, should actually go down. And we did see that in the case of lumber,” Powell said.

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Lumber prices avoid 7th straight decline with late-day surge as the commodity’s blistering 250% rally whipsaws

Worker loading lumber
  • Lumber prices avoided a seventh straight day of losses on Wednesday after spiking into positive territory right before 3:30 pm ET.
  • Prior to the surge, the commodity fell 2.41% to trade at $1,237 per thousand board feet.
  • Despite recent weakness, prices are still up roughly 250% since this time last year.
  • Sign up here for our daily newsletter, 10 Things Before the Opening Bell.

A late-day surge helped lumber prices avoid a seventh straight daily decline as the commodity’s blistering 250% rally over the past year whipsaws.

Prior to the recovery, lumber futures traded down 2.41% to $1,237 per thousand board feet on Wednesday. Despite the rebound, the commodity is still down roughly 20% from its May 7 record high of $1,670.50 per thousand board feet.

As lumber prices fluctuate, local news outlets continue to reveal the effects of historically high lumber prices on consumers.

ABC’s Louisville outlet reported the story of Kenny Marine, the founder of Kentucky Hot Brown Pedalboards, who says his costs have more than doubled since last year.

“Something last year that cost me $12, $14 is costing me $30, $35, $60 in some cases depending on what wood I buy, and that’s the killer right there,” Marine told ABC.

CBS’s affiliate KXAN in Williamson County, Texas, reported that the construction of a new county-run children’s advocacy center is on hold due to increasing construction costs brought about by the spike in lumber prices as well.

Republicans have used rising lumber prices and inflation concerns as political tools to attack President Biden’s administration.

Rep. Bob Gibbs, R-Ohio, who serves on the House Oversight Committee’s environment subcommittee, told FOX Business that increasing lumber prices are “just one of the many indicators that President Biden is failing American workers.”

“Lumber prices are an issue that has many causes, from economic complications from the coronavirus pandemic to difficult trade issues with Canada. Biden has shown he is either unwilling or incapable of tackling these obstacles,” Gibbs told FOX Business.

The representative is referring to a proposed tariff hike on imports of Canadian softwood lumber. The US Commerce Department recommended doubling tariffs on Canadian softwood to 18.32% from 8.99% just two weeks ago despite rising lumber prices.

However, it’s important to note a similar tariff was originally imposed by the Trump administration before a decision favoring Canada by the World Trade Organization caused the tariff to fall to around 9% late last year.

Read more: ‘If lumber crashes, stocks might be next’: An award-winning portfolio manager who’s tracked lumber prices for years breaks down why futures hitting a record high of $1,600 is an ominous sign – and shares what investors can do ahead of the eventual crash

Read the original article on Business Insider

US authorities move to double tariffs on Canadian lumber despite a meteoric rise in prices and demand

British Columbia Lumber
  • The US Commerce Department recommended a doubling of tariffs on Canadian softwood lumber last Friday.
  • The move comes despite lumber prices being up more than 275% since April of last year.
  • “The White House does not care about the plight of American home buyers and renters,” National Association of Home Builders chairman Chuck Fowke said.
  • Sign up here for our daily newsletter, 10 Things Before the Opening Bell.

The US Commerce Department recommended a more than doubling of the tariffs on Canadian lumber last Friday despite a meteoric rise in prices and demand for the commodity.

Specifically, the department recommended the “all others” preliminary countervailing and anti-dumping rate move to 18.32% from 8.99%.

The proposed rates are subject to further review over the next six months before final duties are set sometime in November.

Former President Donald Trump’s administration imposed a similar 20% tariff on Canadian softwood in 2018, but lowered it to around 9% late last year after a decision favoring Canada by the World Trade Organization.

The move to increase tariffs on Canadian lumber suppliers comes as lumber prices have risen over 275% since last April alone. Canada’s share of the US lumber market sits at around 25% as well, according to the Wall Street Journal.

On May 22, National Association of Home Builders chairman Chuck Fowke released a statement criticizing the move to increase tariffs.

“At a time when soaring lumber prices have added nearly $36,000 to the price of a new home and priced millions of middle-class households out of the housing market, the Biden administration’s preliminary finding on Friday to double the tariffs on Canadian lumber shipments into the U.S. shows the White House does not care about the plight of American home buyers and renters who have been forced to pay much higher costs for housing,” Fowke wrote.

“The administration should be ashamed for casting its lot with special interest groups and abandoning the interests of the American people,” he added.

Canadian authorities also rebuked the newly proposed tariffs.

“US duties on Canadian softwood lumber products are a tax on the American people. They make housing less affordable for Americans and hinder economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Mary Ng, a Canadian MP and the minister of Small Business, Export Promotion, and International Trade.

“We will keep challenging these unwarranted and damaging duties through all available avenues. We remain confident that a negotiated solution to this long-standing trade issue is not only possible, but in the best interest of both our countries,” she added.

On the other hand, US timber producers applauded the new tariffs on Canadian companies. Jason Brochu, the US Lumber Coalition co-chair, said the Commerce Department’s decision represents a move to create a level playing field in the industry.

“A level playing field is a critical element for continued investment and growth for U.S. lumber manufacturing to meet strong building demand to build more American homes,” Brochu said in a statement.

“More lumber being manufactured in America to meet domestic demand is a direct result of the trade enforcement, and we strongly urge the Administration to continue this enforcement,” he added.

Insider spoke with Stinson Dean, the founder of Deacon Lumber Company, about differing perspectives from experts regarding the newly proposed tariffs.

Dean said he doesn’t know how the new tariffs will impact prices, but said that last time a tariff increase was announced, prices skyrocketed, although from much a lower base.

However, Dean also said the “tariff should be judged on its merits and not a kneejerk reaction to the current market,” noting that scarcity of supply is the main issue when increasing tariffs, not pricing.

“In my mind, any tax on Canadian lumber incentivizes them to look sell to other markets. The US needs all the supply it can get-and buyers will clearly pay for it-but if it doesn’t exist, it brings construction to a halt. Scarcity is the problem, not price,” Dean said.

Dean recommended a “ceasefire” from tariffs for the next 12 months to give both sides time to lock in a long-term agreement because the industry needs “all the supply in the world pointed at the US.”

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Lumber prices fall for an 8th straight day, deepening a roughly 30% pullback

lumber and building materials store

Lumber prices fell for an eighth straight day on Wednesday, deepening a roughly 30% pullback in the commodity.

Specifically, lumber futures fell roughly 5% to $1,201 per thousand board feet on the day.

Despite the pullback, lumber futures are still up 224% since May 19 of last year, and retailers like Home Depot have made it clear demand remains strong.

Home Depot’s chief financial officer Richard McPhail said in a Tuesday interview with Bloomberg that lumber sales are comparable to “a storm environment where literally as soon as you bring it in, it’s selling.”

“We’re really just focused on making sure we stay in stock and making sure we have the appropriate level of staff to serve our customers. The market will go where it goes,” McPhail added.

On Home Depot’s post-earnings conference call, Edward Decker, the executive vice president of merchandising, said the company had seen a “record-setting quarter for lumber prices.”

“At the end of the first quarter of last year, a sheet of 7/16 OSB [oriented strand board] was approximately $9.55. As we exited the first quarter this year, that same sheet of OSB more than quadrupled in price to $39.76,” Decker said.

Lumber prices have increased so much that CBS Denver reported thieves have taken to stealing the commodity from construction sites.

And KUTV Utah reported builders are looking for alternative materials to get around the rising costs of lumber, with some even turning to Bamboo.

US home construction also fell 9.5% in April, according to US Census Bureau data, as homebuilders struggled with rising commodity prices in lumber, copper, and steel.

Still, lumber prices are falling in the past week due to the end of a “de facto short squeeze” on the commodity, according to Stinson Dean, the owner of Deacon Lumber Company.

Brian Leonard, an analyst for RCM Alternatives in Chicago, also noted lumber futures are being driven down by “computerized trading and other platforms not related to the physical product, so it may end up going lower than the real market need to go,” per Bloomberg.

“The mills know there’s a lot more buying than needs to happen,” he added.

Lumber stocks like Weyerhauser and West Fraser Timber fell as much as 4.58% and 5.77%, respectively, on Wednesday in lock-step with declining lumber future prices.

Read more: ‘If lumber crashes, stocks might be next’: An award-winning portfolio manager who’s tracked lumber prices for years breaks down why futures hitting a record high of $1,600 is an ominous sign – and shares what investors can do ahead of the eventual crash

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