With lumber’s shocking collapse amid a wider world of angst, even market-hardened traders concede they could use a kitten’s cuddling at the end of another week of pricing trauma.
This summer of COVID confinement might cast close-to-home vacations a hardship — unless you’re living in beautiful British Columbia. So it was that, within guidelines shaped by BC Chief Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry, even lumber traders took advantage of sunny summer days for respite from wacky, inexplicable markets. This video was produced by my drone-savvy nephew Sebastian, who joined my family for four amazing days of house boating on lovely Shuswap Lake. It offered time for recreation nurturing attitude of gratitude in times that for many spell struggle, social injustice, and uncertainty.
Here are 20 questions that Harderblog will be watching this year, in search of answers:
- Will billionaire Jimmy Pattison succeed in taking Canfor private before his 92nd birthday on October 1, 2020?
- Will volumes of reduced fibre made available to sawmills from BC woodlands be outstripped by fibre consumed in Shredded Wheat?
- In this age of emerging technology, will tech gadgets surface that invite even lumber traders to investigate their perceived practical value?
- Will the US standoff with North Korea find resolution before the Softwood Lumber Dispute between Canada and the US?
- Will the financial bull markets of the last decade continue to roar in 2020?
- Will economic disparity between the haves and the have-nots show signs of narrowing?
- Will a recovery in lumber prices postpone more production curtailments and permanent sawmill closures in BC?
- Seedlings for forest revitalization in BC are forecast to rise from 270 million seedlings in 2019 to a record 310 million in 2020. How many trees will be planted?
- As the market for sustainable mass timber construction grows, how many more cross-laminated timber (CLT) plants will open in North America this year?
- Will shipment volumes of European lumber flood the Northeast US market as some analysts project?
- Is integrity still considered to be the core quality in evaluating services delivered by lumber wholesalers?
- Will the Broadway revival of The Music Man starring Hugh Jackman later this year reprise its Tony winning best musical of 1957, when it enjoyed a run of 1375 performances?
- Will Home Depot succeed in reducing the rise in millions of dollars worth of goods stolen from the chain by organized criminals?
- In overtaking Toronto as the most expensive city in Canada, will Vancouver maintain that position in 2020?
- Will an old growth protection strategy be established in BC?
- Will there be significant evidence of steps being taken to counter negatives impacting climate change?
- Will there be a cooling in the ideological struggle that exploded in Hong Kong in 2019 between Hong Kong rule of law and Beijing rule of law?
- Will clues of democracy giving way to authoritarian governments become more pronounced in 2020?
- Will John Bolton publish a book that contains information deemed to include “explosive, new revelations”?
- Is Donald J. Trump still president at the end of 2020?
Here are 19 questions that Harderblog will be watching next year, in search of answers:
1. Will the railways be better prepared for winter weather conditions?
2. Will the extreme price volatility in lumber markets this year persist in 2019?
3. Will Justin Trudeau still be Canada’s prime minister after Canada’s federal election scheduled on or before October 21, 2019?
4. Will Donald Trump still be America’s president by the same date?
5. Will Beto O’Rourke or Joe Biden emerge as the leading Democratic presidential nominee for 2020 by the end of 2019?
6. Will the 12 months of 2019 provide conclusive evidence that trade wars are “easy to win”?
7. Will noise about the border wall on the U.S. southern border have lessened by the end of 2019?
8. Will progress be reported in solutions for solving the opioid epidemic?
9. The American Psychiatric Association says anxiety levels jumped 7 per cent from 2017 to 2018. Will 2019 see a reduction in anxiety levels among the American general population?
10. Will 2019 see a reduction in anxiety levels among continent-wide lumber distributors?
11. Will Canadian softwood lumber exports to China (dropping each year since 2014) continue to decline?
12. Will an old-growth protection strategy be established in B.C.?
13. Will the accelerating rate of climate change evidenced in 2018 be exacerbated by global climate patterns experienced in 2019?
14. Will the U.S. repeat as the FIFA Women’s World Cup Champions?
15. Will the record number of homeless people identified in the City of Vancouver’s 2018 Homeless Count be broken again in 2019?
16. Will 2019 have seen an economic recession?
17. Will Brexit status be significant in determining whether Britain is “better off” at the end of 2019 than at the end of 2018?
18. Will European lumber deliveries to the U.S. decline in 2019?
19. In view of lower lumber prices, will we see movement in the Canada-U.S. softwood lumber dispute?
As we approach year-end, you’ll recall 11 questions for 2018 we posed one year ago at Harderblog:
1. Will rhetoric of military strike pass the ‘tipping point’ into war with North Korea?
2. Will the Bitcoin excitement be fading, or prove to be a bubble?
“For built into this situation is the eventual and inevitable fall. Built in also is the circumstance that it cannot come gently or gradually. When it comes, it bears the grim face of disaster. That is because both of the groups of participants in the speculative situation are programmed for sudden efforts at escape. Something, it matters little what – although it will always be much debated – triggers the ultimate reversal. Those who had been riding the upward wave decide now is the time to get out. Those who thought the increase would be forever find their illusion destroyed abruptly, and they, also, respond to the newly revealed reality by selling or trying to sell. Thus the collapse. And thus the rule, supported by the experience of centuries: the speculative episode always ends not with a whimper but with a bang. There will be occasion to see the operation of this rule frequently repeated.”
– John Kenneth Galbraith, A Short History of Financial Euphoria
3. Will the extreme weather patterns evidenced in 2017 be as pronounced in 2018?
According to The Washington Post, the extreme floods, droughts, heat waves and wildfires that broke out this year across North America, Europe and Asia were unprecedented. In Canada, it’s reported no region was spared from extreme weather events; in B.C., 2018 was the worst wildfire season in history, beating the previous record set in 2017. The Weather Channel calls 2018 the year of the California wildfires.
4. Will Trump take steps to call a halt to the special prosecutor’s investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election?
Who knows for sure, although reports suggest it’s less likely now than appeared to be the case at the beginning of 2018.
5. Has integrity lost some of its lustre as a perceived prerequisite for leadership success?
2018 – a year when we’ve been inured to shock! Many revelations, many developments unfolding still, lead us to believe that integrity remains a prerequisite for leadership success in the long run.
6. As higher lumber prices effectively offset impact of duties, will Canadian major producers’ newly-hedged investments in U.S. production assuage any further concerns companies such as West Fraser and Canfor might have about the ongoing Softwood Lumber Dispute?
It’s a combination of factors, including fibre supply and ongoing international trade/duty related concerns that has motivated major producers to seek out options for gaining better control over the variable factors that go into managing their operations. Contrary to Trump’s America First philosophy, these days the large integrated corporations recognize they have to think globally to be successful.
7. Will Germany repeat as FIFA World Cup champions?
No. Germany did not make it out of the Group Stage, finishing last in Group F which also included Sweden, Mexico, and South Korea. France won the 2018 World Cup, beating Croatia 4-2 in the final.
8. Will the powers that be acknowledge that the re-manufacturing (value-added) segment of the Canadian forest sector is being unfairly penalized in the application of the AD/CVD?
No. On re-manufactured specialty wood products, the cross-border Anti-dumping (AD) and Countervailing duties (CVD) continue to be applied to the selling (border) price instead of the first mill price. Freight and all processing costs are included in the AD/CVD calculation. The resulting, punishing impact of this application on the value-added segment of the Canadian forest sector has been described as “an unintended consequence” of the Softwood Lumber Dispute.
9. Will softwood lumber be incorporated into NAFTA?
Softwood lumber was not incorporated into NAFTA 2.0 which was signed November 30th but has yet to be ratified.
10. In view of the fractured supply chain, will lumber buyers abandon the “just-in-time” model in favour of securing coverage that satisfies longer-term projected needs?
No. On the heels of the epic, bull-trap riddled lumber market collapse from the record high prices reached in June, the “just-in-time” model has probably intensified.
11. Will broccoli, the least-trusted vegetable of 2017 among lumber traders and the general population, retain that notoriety in 2018, at the same time as the world watches broccoli’s favorability surge to number one in Scotland?
A not-so-random survey among lumber traders reveals that broccoli has been gaining in approval ratings among lumber traders and the general population this year. In fact a survey suggests that as of June 2018, broccoli took the lead as America’s favorite vegetable. While many vegetables consumed in the U.S. are imported from Mexico, broccoli is well down the list of imported vegetables.
According to the National Christmas Tree Association, environmentally-conscious Millennials might be to thank. Both Canadian and U.S. tree farmers indicate it’s mostly younger couples who are fueling the optimism for green tree sales. “They’re coming in for the experience. It’s their first Christmas and they want to purchase a real Christmas tree.”
Bloomberg confirms it’s going to be a green Christmas for tree growers. With more buyers opting for pine over plastic, prices in the U.S. have surged 17% over the past two years. In the Great White North, growers point to $77 million annual sales, with approximately half their production heading to U.S. markets.
At our house, while the Christmas lights are up, ‘we’ usually prefer to wait until mid-December to buy a tree. Turns out our kids were paying close attention to the systematic setup of our neighbourhood tree lot this year. They pass the site daily when my wife drives them to and from school. Fencing went up couple weeks ago. Big tent popped up. Then activity seemed to stall. Suddenly this week, rows of crisscrossing 2×4’s appeared. Plywood walkways surfaced. Wednesday, colorful signage! On the way home yesterday, LIGHTS!! This morning, my phone rang early at the office. “Daddy, we’re thinking of buying our Christmas Tree now.”
Posted by Ernie Harder 11-20-2018:
While Americans and Canadians celebrate Thanksgiving on different dates, we note an increasing universality in search for genuine meaning in events of traditional significance. Celebrations built around tradition are less inclined to differentiate the changing times and circumstances. Even so, realities of change, well beyond climate, traumatized lumber markets, or traditional celebrations touch us all. How we adapt is becoming a question of increasing relevance. Celebrations that mark historic or seasonal events, such as the recent honoring of sacrifices and the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I, or, the American Thanksgiving celebration this week, command our attention even as we ponder revised distribution yard inventory values.
The events of life intersect with our lives at the same time as we struggle to assimilate disparate transitions – comprehend election results, seek resolutions to concerns such as those posed by unprecedented raging California wildfires, contemplate the world’s refugees in search of a safe place to call home, support ongoing hurricane and flood revival efforts.
Adapting to the dynamics of life is complicated by the increasing speed of unfolding change. A study published last week out of the University of British Columbia suggests humans have become one of the largest drivers of evolutionary change on the planet, with conclusions that “evolution is now speeding up”.
We’re told that peace is not a season, anymore than a holiday defines the spirit of Thanksgiving. Borders that demarcate North American as well as global nations may help delineate different currencies, exchange rates, trade objectives and culture. However, in recognizing that “the rain falls on the just and the unjust”, the laws of nature do not differentiate between country or region. So too the symbolism found in celebration around specific events is measured in lives and relationships demonstrating acts of integrity and compassion everyday. It is in that spirit that we’re reminded of the life of the late senator John McCain, who infused language of Thanksgiving with demonstrated action beyond his quote: “If there is one word that embodies the ideal of duty, honor and country it is gratitude.” Happy Thanksgiving blessings to all our American neighbors and friends.
Is the lumber market ripe for picking? Who knows. Unfortunately this week’s picking readiness signalled by my backyard apple tree’s bumper crop offers little guidance. Unlike apples dropping from a tree, falling lumber prices can’t be sure of where ground level support intervenes.
Wait for a couple of apples to fall from the tree. Apple trees naturally drop their apples when they are ripe in order to self-seed and reproduce. Watch for an apple or two to drop from the tree to determine if they are ready to pick.
When your apples are ripe, they should be fairly easy to pick from the tree with a simple upward twist of the apple. Try to avoid picking an apple by pulling the fruit straight down and tugging.
If otherwise healthy fruits begin to fall off the tree, they are probably beginning to get a little too ripe and should probably be harvested as soon as possible.
Now if only Google could offer up unambiguous harvest-time signals for lumber inventory managers.
We’re in for a heat wave. Wildfires threaten our woods, with B.C. Interior areas contemplating evacuation alert notices. It’s a stress-inducing situation that has even lumber traders wondering how to keep cool. Uniting in nudity is suggested as a solution by some. We read of a Newcastle, UK based marketing company who once decided to have a naked Friday, “to boost team spirit and improve employee morale.” Business psychologist David Taylor called it “the most extreme technique” he’s ever used. After a week of counselling and office activities aimed at building courage, most of the co-workers agreed to strip down to work in the buff for a day in an effort to boost production (and probably for a chance to be on TV). The ‘naked event’ is said to have turned around the company’s fortunes.
We’re told that Canada’s first and largest legal, clothing-optional beach, Vancouver’s Wreck Beach, is so crowded this week, there’s a lot of jostling going on to find room to park your fanny pack. It’s reported that at Wreck Beach, named among the world’s top 10 nude beaches, the atmosphere is very stress free. “When you shed your clothes, you shed the stress. It also helps you keep cool”. With lumber prices continuing to peel off this week, it may have some traders dedicated to serving supplier and customer needs from behind office desks wondering.
“Wooden it be loverly”, words from My Fair Lady ring true to a lumber trader’s ear.. even though Professor Henry Higgins may say it’s meant to say “wouldn’t”.
Today, another ‘would‘-related story is music to our ears (see: Guitar maker champions use of local woods).
It’s the Vancouver International Guitar Festival, upcoming in early August. The Vancouver Sun reports that some of the world’s top luthiers will be on hand “to present guitars crafted entirely from local BC woods such as Sitka spruce, red cedar, curly maple – perhaps even reclaimed or salvaged woods.”
The “local wood challenge” holds particular interest here in BC, which reportedly supplies 80 per cent of the tone wood to the global guitar market. While Englemann and Sitka spruce are two of the province’s most sought-after species, Dave Nadin of Bow River woods in Chilliwack notes a growing interest in other domestic woods.
It’s reported that while earlier guitar shows highlighted flashier guitars made of rosewood and mahogany, demand for locally-sourced wood is on the rise with an eye to sustainability and protection of natural resources. We’re told it’s the way of the future. Meanwhile, as long as Willie’n the boys make music, would or wouldn’t not guitar afficionados trust the chords to ring true, no matter what lumber’s in play.
Images from a family hike in the woods last week at beautiful Golden Ears Provincial Park: