Trading Disrupted?

A five percent reduction in the softwood lumber export tax (from 15% to 10%) begins tomorrow on shipments to the U.S. from B.C. and Alberta.

When the 4-week Random Lengths Composite Price average through May 11th triggered this lower export tax for the month of June, supplier quotes for June shipment within Canada sought a 5% increase.  Meanwhile, quotes for June shipment to the U.S. have so far not reflected a 5% discount.  With the possibility of a further five percent export tax discount in July, it’s understandable this transition has lent some confusion to trading this week, as markets search out new trading levels.

1980 – First Annual BCWLA Roast

Ernie Harder and Phil Tindle

The First Annual B.C. Wholesale Lumber Association’s Lumberman of the Year Roast was held at the Terminal City Club in Vancouver on May 15, 1980.  Archived images of that evening are provided by Roastmaster Ernie Harder (Col-Pac Lumber Company Ltd), who went on to either MC or present at more than twenty BCWLA Roasts in the years that followed.  Ernie recalls that Charlie Widman (Cooper Widman) and Paul Plant (Ralph S. Plant Ltd), reportedly fierce wholesale competitors back in those days, found common ground to roast original honoree Phil Tindle (Ralph S. Plant Ltd).  A complete list of Lumberman of the Year recipients is available here.

The 32nd Annual BCWLA Lumberman of the Year Roast, honoring Joe Heath (West Fraser), will be held June 14th at The Vancouver Club.  Stay tuned for more Roast updates!

Opposite forces?

A report in The Wall Street Journal suggests a 27% increase in lumber prices to date this year is evidence an uptick in domestic demand is more than off-setting a slowdown in American wood exports.  While U.S. exports of wood products to China have fallen 16%, U.S. housing starts have climbed to 714,000 (annual pace, up from 609,000 last year).  “Indeed, Chinese timber demand may have fallen not just because China’s economy is slowing, but because U.S. wood is no longer the bargain that it once was.”

Full Story

Memorial Day Weekend

Honoring the memory of those who gave their lives in defence of country is significantly shared on both sides of the 49th Parallel.  This weekend the Memorial Day Holiday will be marked by friends and neighbors to the south of us.  The Memorial Day quotations noted in media this week provide inspiration, respect, and honor for courage and sacrifice that is universal.

“The greatest glory of a free-born people is to transmit that freedom to their children.”
– William Havard

Sasquatch and Snakefish

When the elusive Sasquatch doesn’t make the news, a slow news day might be reason to go fishing elsewhere for stories.  Today it’s learned that ferocious snakehead fish are invading local waters.  While YouTube images claim the critter exists, local officials have unsuccessfully cast their nets in efforts to verify its existence.  The story, as far as I can tell, has had as little impact on the lumber market as Facebook stock tips.

A focus on freight

With U.S. housing starts rising to a 717,000 annual rate in April, construction has improved 50% from the low of 478,000 in April 2009.  As construction continues to improve, it’s certainly a “rising-tide environment” for truckers and trucking companies – not only on the road – but evidently in the media as well.  As this report from Bloomberg points out, if starts were to remain above 750,000 for a 12-month period, 4,000 more trucks would be needed.  It even seems a proposed new highway bill is aimed at making room for them (see A Faster Lane for Trucks?).
And this heartwarming story in The National Post (The Long Haul) features a trucker with star power.  His dedication led to a perfect driving record – and perhaps even more impressively, a golden wedding anniversary.  At 69, Ken McCarty’s age “makes him a rarity on the road, but what makes him even more exceptional are the more than four million miles he has logged behind the wheel.  Imagine driving from Halifax to Vancouver and back — 550 times. He never speeds, and he pays attention to the road, a road he is on for 966 kilometres (600 miles) a day, most days.”

What would Smokey say?

We remember that Smokey the Bear used to stand on guard, protecting continental forests.  These days there’s some concern about who’s standing on guard in the woods.  The cutback in numbers of BC’s full-time and seasonal rangers in the past decade is significant.  Stories of an 800 year-old cedar tree stolen by poachers in ‘protected’ coastal Carmanah on Vancouver Island prompted added security deployed over this holiday weekend.. as forestry technicians and science officers took up positions in the face of a park ranger shortage.  The reality of tree poaching in a time of firming lumber prices, at the same time as fire season approaches, might encourage some re-examination of priorities.  At least that’s what Smokey thinks.

Keeping good company..

Almost thirty of the best lumber graders from across the province competed in COFI’s 44th Annual BC Interior Lumber Grading Championship on May 5th in Kelowna.  And of course since those of us concerned with quality control always stick together, I’m pleased to note that Dave Munro of West Fraser has been crowned this year’s champion!  Dave and I were in the same memorable class at BCIT for two years, in the Wood Products Manufacturing Program (’92 – has it really been twenty years?).  When it came to lumber grading, I recall Dave being tops in our class, taught by timber specialist and program head Eric Worthy.  It’s not surprising to see Dave now tops in the province, with a mark of 96.4% in the championship.  Congrats!

Dave Munro, photo courtesy of COFI

House of Tomorrow

An article in today’s North Shore News looks at what we can expect to see in the houses of the future here.  While some of the design trends are obvious (smaller in size, energy efficient, green, etc), the flexibility of a floor plan, with a trend toward accessible living for an aging population, is interesting.  “Main floor master bedrooms, wheelchair accessibility, residential elevators and single level living will become increasingly popular in coming years.”  The columnist, Kevin Vallely, is the designer for what looks to be a unique project called “Cliffhanger House” – construction is just underway for this new retirement dream home, and the entire process can be followed on-line here.

Habitat for Humanity

Pain wrought by nationwide home foreclosures is an accompanying theme of stories related to the recession.  However, a feel-good story in the New York Times over the weekend tells of positive contributions initiated in Oregon, by Habitat for Humanity.  “Business leaders and housing experts said Portland — partly through Habitat’s timing in betting big in a down market, partly through a donor network led by Mr. Gray that stepped up to help even as corporate support mostly collapsed — was creating something that would resonate long after the recession: Habitat neighborhoods.”