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Appalachian Comments

Comments from 5/24/2024

Hardwood lumber production remains historically low in this region, as noted in last week’s comments. Several factors are responsible for this. In certain areas, wet weather continues to hinder timber harvests and log flows to mills. Labor shortages are also preventing many mills from expanding operating hours, as markets may allow for more volume. Finally, limited outlets for pulpwood and residuals are constraining logging and sawmill operations, despite opportunities to boost lumber sales. Broadly speaking, supplies of most grade and industrial lumber items are not extremely tight despite low production, which is a reflection of historically low demand.


Market conditions for Ash are emblematic of the overall hardwood lumber trade. That is, low production for an extended period of time has kept inventories at manageable levels even though demand has not been very good. Many of the best outlets for Ash are overseas, led by China. That market is not performing as well as in the past but is absorbing a sizeable percentage of kiln dried Ash output. Consumption by domestic manufacturers of RV furnishings, residential furniture, flooring, and other secondary products is limited. Green and kiln dried prices are well represented by the current listings and ranges.


Sawmill operators are avoiding Basswood production to the extent possible. Concentration yards and end users are controlling green lumber purchases, with many off the market entirely. Prices for most items did not meaningfully change this week, with the exceptions of 4/4 Fas&1f, for which the listings are reduced. Transactions in established buyer-seller relationships constitute the vast majority of kiln dried activity, and even that business is slow compared to the past. While prices continue to show a downward bias, no changes are warranted to the published figures this week.



Factors that influence business for this species are now trending in unfavorable directions. Demand is slowing from China. At the same time, more Cherry logs have flowed into many area sawmills, resulting in somewhat higher production. All of this is evident in lower reported prices that drive reductions to the kiln dried listings and ranges for all items except 6/4 and 8/4 #1C. Concentration yards are controlling green purchases to align inventories with the lower rate of kiln dried sales. Prices for certain items are yielding to competitive pressures. The Appalachian 4/4 #1C and North Central 4/4 #1C and #2A listings edge down.


Domestic markets for Hickory have contracted significantly during the last two to three years. Consumption by the residential flooring and cabinet industries is way off. Hickory’s niche in the moulding/millwork sector has also shrunk. Purchasing and sales contacts indicate business remains in the doldrums and prices are soft. The green 5/4 #2A&Btr and 6/4 #1C&Btr listings retreat. All the other green listings remain intact, as do the kiln dried 4/4 #2A&Btr figures.


This species is moving well in most grades and thicknesses, led by 4/4 #1C&Btr. Markets are readily absorbing developing supplies of green #1&2 White and good colored Unselected Hard Maple at prices consistent with the listings. Likewise, kiln dried sales are brisk except for brown stocks. Reported prices include both steady and higher numbers, but previous increases have most of the published figures in order. Only the #1&2 White 4/4 and 5/4 #2A listings and ranges advance in this issue.


Comments about upper grade Soft Maple business are uniformly positive, as are most reports about #1C activity. In contrast, demand for #2A is widely described as slow. Pricing trends reflect these varied realities. The Unselected green Fas&1f listings and kiln dried Fas listings and ranges notch gains in all thicknesses. Conversely, the green Sap&Btr 4/4 through 8/4 #2A listings fall back.

#2&3A OAK

Many tie treating operations have ample crosstie inventories and are reining in purchases. Consequently, sawmills are cutting more grade lumber from their Oak logs, much of it being #2A&3A. At the same time, flooring plants in both the residential and truck trailer subsectors are being less assertive with purchases. Sales competition for #2A&3A is increasing, but most mills have enough orders to cover production for now. Information obtained this week keeps the #2A&3A Red Oak and White Oak listings intact.


Low sawmill production throughout fall and winter continues to limit the volume of Red Oak coming through kilns. As such, supply and demand for most kiln dried items are closely matched even though exports are not very strong. Prices are firm, but only the 5/4 #1C listings and ranges increase. Market circumstances for green Red Oak did not change much this week. Fas&1f are in the highest demand, followed by #1C, then #2A&3A. Prices seen in reported transactions are well represented by the #3A&Btr listings.


White Oak is attracting solid interest in domestic and international markets. Domestically, consumption is steady in the residential flooring industry, and riftsawn usage has increased in the cabinet sector. Meanwhile, brisk White Oak shipments to Canada, Vietnam, and the UK are largely offsetting slower shipments to other export destinations. Many green and kiln dried White Oak items have plateaued in price in the last 7 to 10 days. In fact, green 6/4 and 8/4 prices are wavering, which sometimes happens when drying operations pull back on purchasing thicker stocks to avoid greater risks of checking when air drying during warm months. In this issue, only the kiln dried 4/4 Fas listings and low end range numbers advance.


Sawmills are moving developing production of this species, though some indicate #2A and #2B are challenging to sell. The 8/4 Fas&1f and 10/4 through 16/4 #2A&Btr listings are reduced. Exporters are garnering more orders from Far Eastern customers, particularly those in Vietnam. By some accounts, reduced availability of competing species from other countries is helping to boost Poplar purchases in that region. Higher reported prices lift the kiln dried 4/4, 5/4, and 8/4 #1C listings and noted ranges.


Chinese buyers are pulling back on Walnut purchases. Contacts attribute this to a combination of ample on hand inventories; many Chinese customers buying Walnut lumber produced in China from US logs; and elevated prices. In contrast, demand for kiln dried Walnut has not slowed in domestic markets. All of the listings and ranges hold steady this week except the 4/4 #1C figures, which climb higher. Surveys and transaction documents reflect wide variances in green Walnut prices though, on balance, information shows less volatility than during the past couple of weeks. Only the 8/4 Fas&1f listings warrant reductions.


Markets for solid hardwood framestock have been depressed for some time, and circumstances did not change this week. Prices are flat, however, because few companies are developing and selling framestock.

Most wooden pallet manufacturers describe finished goods sales as fair. Some are controlling pallet cant and lumber purchases, but sawmills are still able to find outlets for developing output. The current listing and range accurately reflect reported prices for cants.

Crosstie shipments from sawmills to treating facilities have gradually slowed since the start of the year. Many mills are now subject to shipping quotas and have reduced tie production accordingly. Prices range from steady to soft, though previous changes have both the 7x9 crosstie ranges in order.

Board road sales are steady for established producers, as are reported prices.

International Comments


Please see our graphs.

Pricing Changes

BASSWOOD  4/4 FAS 700-
CHERRY  4/4 1C 575-
2A 355-
HICKORY  5/4 FAS 995-
1C 615-
2A 445-
 6/4 FAS 1150-
1C 700-
SOFT MAPLE – SAP&BTR  4/4 2A 385-
 5/4 2A 385-
 6/4 2A 385-
 8/4 2A 430-
 5/4 FAS 1425+
 6/4 FAS 1455+
 8/4 FAS 1515+
POPLAR  8/4 FAS 885-
 10/4 FAS 990-
1C 500-
2A 380-
 12/4 FAS 1065-
1C 535-
2A 410-
 16/4 FAS 1105-
1C 565-
2A 425-
WALNUT  8/4 FAS 3620-
CHERRY  4/4 FAS 1580-
1C 965-
2A 645-
 5/4 FAS 1730-
1C 1050-
2A 700-
 6/4 FAS 1805-
 8/4 FAS 2035-
1C 1095-
2A 675-
 5/4 FAS 1755-
1C 1140-
2A 710-
 6/4 FAS 1835-
 8/4 FAS 2070-
HARD MAPLE – #1&2 WHITE  4/4 2A 930+
 5/4 2A 895+
 5/4 FAS 2050+
 6/4 FAS 2285+
 8/4 FAS 2425+
RED OAK  5/4 1C 1180+
WHITE OAK  4/4 FAS 4625+
POPLAR  4/4 1C 695+
 5/4 1C 730+
 8/4 1C 855+
WALNUT  4/4 1C 2905+
CHERRY  4/4 FAS 1700-
1C 1035-
2A 695-
 5/4 FAS 1860-
1C 1130-
2A 755-
 6/4 FAS 1940-
 8/4 FAS 2185-
1C 1175-
2A 725-
 5/4 FAS 1885-
1C 1225-
2A 765-
 6/4 FAS 1970-
 8/4 FAS 2230-
HARD MAPLE – #1&2 WHITE  4/4 2A 1000+
 5/4 2A 960+
 5/4 FAS 2200+
 6/4 FAS 2450+
 8/4 FAS 2600+
RED OAK  5/4 1C 1265+
WHITE OAK  4/4 FAS 4965+
POPLAR  4/4 1C 745+
 5/4 1C 785+
 8/4 1C 920+
WALNUT  4/4 1C 3115+