“What’s the market doing?”

For most lumber traders, that’s likely been the question of the week. While you won’t find a concrete answer at this Reality Check at MNI, the report does offer an accurate account of what’s transpired this year in view of a U.S. housing market in recovery mode. Here are 12 money quotes pulled from the full story:

  • U.S. lumber prices have firmed in recent months as rising housing starts have put pressure on lean inventories, creating a supply shortage that has yet to fully unwind
  • Some further gains can be expected in 2014 as the housing recovery strengthens although the growth in single- and multi-family starts is expected to be modest by pre-recession standards, pointing to commensurate gains for lumber prices
  • Any further price gains likely would be in line with an anticipated incremental rise in housing starts, which are expected to rise to a seasonally adjusted 1.15 million rate in 2014 from 924,000 this year, according to the National Association of Home Builders.
  • Recent price gains were helped by mild weather throughout much of the United States, boosting construction industry demand
  • “With supplies flowing smoothly through the distribution system, dealers and distributors were forced to replace more frequently than they had anticipated”
  • The gains of recent months partly reflect the reluctance of retailers, wholesalers, and distributors to rebuild inventories after a sharp price decline to around $320 in the composite price during the second quarter of 2013
  • Although housing starts are now almost double the annual rate of some 500,000 seen at the depths of the recession, they are still sharply below the pre-recession rate which single-family starts hit a peak of some 1.7 million units, or around twice the current rate.
  • “It’s not like we couldn’t figure out a way of producing lumber for more houses.”
  • “All the wood they are buying right now has a home”
  • “There is a really strong correlation between jobs and household formation”
  • After the lumber market’s convulsions earlier in the year, supply and demand are now more closely aligned, although the market is still “a little short” and producers are in the driver’s seat
  • (It’s) all consistent with a “slow-moving recovery” that is hampered by a high jobless rate and a sluggish global recovery.

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