Against the Grain

Agricultural worker Istvan Puskas of Tiszaors, Hungary, spent four months in his workshop building a car almost entirely out of wood – including the gas tank.
“I love to work with wood,” Mr. Puskas told The Telegraph here (includes video). “And I like to create unique things which attract interest from people. My aim was to make it out of wood as much as possible. A wooden car must be made from wood! Most probably I will sell it. I have no place to store it. I have no garage, I have nothing. It can be good for a collector, for somebody who likes nostalgia, for somebody who likes to drive slowly.”

What Happened?

Evidently the “fractured supply chain” we heard about at so many industry conferences earlier this year works just fine when it’s chock-full of wood. Mark Kennedy, Executive Director, Equity Research at CIBC World Markets, cites a combination of four market factors which created an oversupplied North American supply chain:

  1. The over extension of prices (caused by momentum, with little fundamental demand support)
  2. Construction delays caused by poor weather
  3. The ramping up of production at sawmills in the U.S. and Canada in the face of strong market pricing
  4. Push back from China.

‘Push back from China’ is explained as follows:
“Lumber prices (on North American lumber) in China hit an all-time high in Q1/2013 of about US$280 per m3 on utility grade SPF (equivalent to about US$370/M mill net). China’s response to this record level of lumber pricing was to push back on several fronts. They picked up more lumber volume from other countries. In addition, some Chinese lumber buyers switched back to buying logs and then doing the product conversion in China. The combination of these two events was to reduce Chinese purchasing of North American lumber – particularly in the recent months of March, April, and May.” Mark was on BNN earlier today to talk about the ‘lumber tumble’ here.

Meanwhile, some lumber wholesalers point to the lumber market having plummeted ever since Tom Davis was announced this year’s recipient of the BCWLA Lumberman of the Year Award (click image for larger size).
Tom Davis vs CME Chart May 2013-page-0 (1)

Where do wooden boxes come from?

Founded in 1897, the Phillips Brothers Mill in Oak Run, California, was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 2002. It is the last fully steam-powered sawmill in America and is still operated by the family (see mill history here). A video of the operation is available below.
Breathe deeply… exhale slowly… and enjoy… Wooden it be lovely!
(Hat Tip: Al Harder)

Peculiarities

WhatWood is “the only english-language weekly journal in Russia that writes about the forest industry in Russia and CIS countries” according to their website here. Their post today entitled Wood Pricing Peculiarities in Russia and Finland is telling, indicative of the impact global supply factors have on domestic lumber prices today.

What to make of it?

Some suggest that market forces, especially those playing out between the U.S. housing recovery and what’s reported to be a glut of Russian Pine lumber supply at the moment in China, are competing market dynamics currently at the fore. Back in April at the COFI Conference, “fragile” was an oft-used word by many speakers in characterizing the forest industry recovery after five dismal years. The futures market has spoken; traders anticipate the increase in supply capacity will outstrip fibre scarcity concerns in the short term. The timing of patterns in play just now is fascinating, considering that while offshore activity tends to ease in the summer, variables such as summer sawmill shutdowns and seasonal fire hazards have yet to unfold.