It’s been said that economics is an imperfect science. So it is that sometimes even lumber market forecasts have been known to be less than perfect. In some aspects related to the woods business, accuracy can be critical – as in when you’re aiming to fall a towering Douglas Fir that’s been growing in your backyard for a century. Unfortunately due to root rot, this giant had to be removed in Langley on Thursday. We can appreciate there was little margin for error. Some days are like that. Thanks to Duke and Tracey for the video!
Here are 17 questions that Harderblog will be watching in 2017, in search of answers:
- (See Question #1 from last year)
- Will Trump really build a wall and have Mexico pay for it?
- Will the softwood lumber dispute have found a satisfactory resolution?
- Will anticipated countervailing duties on Canadian softwood lumber shipments to the US be applied retroactively?
- Will Trump really pull the US out of the Paris Climate Change Agreement?
- In the face of “Fake News” and misinformation that poses distraction to sound decision formulation on many fronts, will lumber dealers lean more heavily than ever on trusted wholesale relationships to interpret market changes?
- Will Trump really pull the US out of the Iran Nuclear Deal?
- Will there be 100 million consumers shopping in augmented reality (AR) by the end of 2017?
- Will a measure of sanity return to the Vancouver housing market?
- Will the record number of homeless people identified in the City of Vancouver’s 2016 Homeless Count be broken again in 2017?
- Will tensions with China escalate over trade and Taiwan?
- In light of increased hacking of connected products, will questions surrounding cyber security have become a make-or-break issue by the end of 2017?
- Is there any indication that by the end of 2017 a future of driverless transport trucks could promise enhanced just-in-time lumber deliveries?
- Will anybody care if the Vancouver Canucks fail to make the Stanley Cup Playoffs?
- Will BC Premier Christy Clark’s Liberal Party secure a fifth term in May?
- Will the global crises surrounding issues of displaced peoples/refugees have eased anywhere?
- Will general predictions forecasting a “bumpy ride” for 2017 come to fruition?
Of the Top Ten Questions for 2016 posed at Harderblog one year ago, the first five have been satisfactorily answered for us:
1. Will the Trump presidential campaign have staying power beyond March?
See November election results.
2. Will the US make history by electing a woman as president for the first time?
3. Will BC softwood log exports to Mainland China eclipse BC softwood lumber exports?
For the answer to this question, we turned to Russ Taylor, President, WOOD MARKETS. “Interesting question, but lumber export volumes to China have always been much higher than logs. The gap is narrowing, but lumber export volumes are still much higher.” Russ confirms BC softwood exports to China through October as follows: Logs = 3.0 million m3 vs 2.43 million m3 in 2015 (+23%); Lumber = 5.0 million m3 vs 5.49 million m3 in 2015 (-9%). Of course, log exports even south of the border continue to be a contentious issue.
4. Will a new Softwood Lumber Agreement be reached between Canada and the United States before the standstill period ends October 13?
No. By early October, we were told talks had entered the days of magical thinking. And while the US Lumber Coalition’s submission of their petition to the US Department of Commerce was predictable, the November 25 timing caught markets by surprise. At least one forest analyst suggested “it put a whole new spin on Black Friday.”
5. Is this the year virtual reality goes mainstream?
As the cost of development falls, we’re told virtual reality is in fact beginning to move into the mainstream. However, it’s reported that most console headsets are still “device-exclusive”. And flaws in these controllers actually tempered demand in 2016, leading Tech Digest to ask will virtual reality finally become mainstream in 2017?
The focus in 2017 is going to be how to achieve a deeper sense of “wellness” in everyday life, reports The Vancouver Sun here. Defined as “making contact with and taking in the atmosphere of the forest,” forest bathing involves immersing “in the calming, leafy greenery of a woodland/forest environment – to relieve tension and stress and to experience a more heightened sense of well-being.”
The term forest bathing comes from the Japanese shinrin-yoku, which means taking in the forest atmosphere. “Knowing the pleasure of being outdoors is nothing new to people here on the West Coast, but the terminology ‘forest bathing’ is something new to our ears. As a result, more people are predicted to go for a walk in the woods if they think of it as ‘bathing’ in nature rather than just taking a rustic ramble.”
Psychology Today explains “what sets forest bathing apart from simply taking a walk in the forest is that we consciously take in the sights, sounds, smells, and the whole experience, rather than allowing our minds to do the things they habitually do, like putting together a mental grocery list.”
This theme of forest bathing certainly fits into progressive thinking for stewardship of the forest. It recognizes value in the holistic approach that plugs into Mike Apsey’s thinking on forest management that appreciated value in the woods beyond “the price of a 2×4”.
Seems even as far back as 1977, I was caught sitting on Carrier inventory!
The news this week is all about getting burned. In B.C. we’re told that forests ravaged by fire this year are already nearly triple the 10-year average, with costs of fighting them expected to soar to $400 million. With newly-imposed water restrictions, Vancouver lawns display shades of burned brown. On normally lush Fraser Valley farms, the hot weather is scorching crops, leaving one visiting trucker to off-load surplus blueberries on our trading floor this week. Somehow the perceived hardships resulting from rules against washing your car in Vancouver pale in relation to wildfires causing families to be burned out of Interior homes.
There are other reports of getting burned in the news today. The summer sun has reportedly brought out a new trend where Darwin award candidates are using sunscreen to draw designs on their bodies. The bright idea is to get a severe sunburn so that the design created by the sun is visible. Meanwhile gold investors’ portfolios are getting burned rather than burnished. And there are other burning issues today besides Canadian lumber stocks. Today’s column by Barbara Yaffe in The Vancouver Sun reports that homebuyers risk getting burned by home inspections because there is a lack of independence between the home inspection industry and realtors. Do the bulldozers really care?
In the wider world there is more talk around the nuclear deal with Iran as Congress prepares to debate the issue over whether it’s a good deal or a bad deal in which some suggest the West and Israel will surely “get burned”. This week came news of hackers accessing a website teed up to facilitate philanderers. Playing in those websites is said to hold risks of getting burned. Some might say this alludes to the kind of burning ring of fire that Johnny Cash used to sing about.
Some might question just what does all this have to do with the price of 2×4’s? But in conclusion, a lumber trader was heard to say that even amid reports Americans bought homes in June at the fastest rate in over eight years, there is risk of getting burned in the cumulative build-up of excessive household debt in Canada. But for some lumber traders, it was Starbucks recall of tea pitchers that really caught our eye, after some customers were cut and burned by breaking/leaking glass. We depend on that stop each morning to offer up encouragement for the day – to be rendered risk-free of getting burned – if you don’t count the price paid in depleted loonies.
Since when does data on building chicken barns legitimately become part of housing starts analysis? In today’s Lumber Market Report, Random Lengths drew attention to what seemed like an unusual point in noting that “4×6-12’s on the westside got a boost from strong sales to builders of chicken houses”. Perhaps it doesn’t matter. Certainly the roosters don’t care. So why should we?
There’s interesting stuff happening in housing construction in many areas that makes one wonder about the collection of data on starts. For one, does size matter? As part of Vancouver’s Eco Density Initiative, Laneway Infill Housing aims to increase density without disrupting neighborhood building patterns. No doubt the building materials used in construction of one of Vancouver’s many new monster homes is equivalent to five or six laneway houses or two dozen chicken houses. This morning The Vancouver Sun reports Hummingbird Micro Homes selling up to 31 housing starts at 300 square feet per home. Are these houses included?
The multi-family trends in ‘housing construction’ south of the border no doubt influence degree to which particular starts impact use of lumber, as traders warily scrutinize activity for June. Meanwhile, a recent string of local articles bemoan the sluggish lumber recovery in B.C. It has some wondering if it’s time industry focused a little less on what we can’t control (housing starts) and a little more on what we can (lumber production).