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Market Recap: RISI Crow's Construction Materials Cost Index

A price index of lumber and panels used in actual construction for March 30, 2012

*Western - regional species perimeter foundation; Southern - regional species slab construction.

Crow's Market Recap -- A condensed recap of the market conditions for the major North American softwood lumber and panel products as reported in Crow's Weekly Market Report.

Lumber: SPF lumber buyers sensed a decidedly weaker market, but mills did not necessarily all react in the same manner. In the East, mills looked for orders and lowered prices. In the West, mills were more adamant about sticking to quotes used in previous weeks, despite the market's sluggish pace. Southern Pine lumber buyers purchased sparingly, presuming a continued weakness in dimension lumber prices. Dimension lumber discounts of $10 were most evident in the West zone. Month and quarter-end sent buyers looking for deals. A lack of aggressiveness among buyers prompted Coastal species lumber producers to lower prices or negotiate deals. More market liquidity was generated at discounts. Producers made outgoing calls, and subsequent success often consisted of conservative volumes. Light mill inventories and order files helped maintain a little strength in the Inland species lumber market, as it closed its third week of slow sales activity. Buyers stayed away or only looked for specific tallies to fill inventory holes. Radiata Pine Shop was scarce, as producers went to other markets with better returns. A few sales of Mldg&Btr for early summer arrival were reported. Ponderosa Pine Mldg&Btr sales were moderate, and prices were firm but unchanged. Millwork producers reported steady repeat business. Sales activity for Ponderosa Pine boards remained quiet throughout the week. Light inventories at mills and limited potential for increased production in the near future kept producers quoting close to previous levels. Producers shipped Eastern White Pine boards in record volumes. Sales activity in all widths and grades was robust. Steady sales of ESLP boards continued, although prices for narrow #2&Btr came off slightly. Tight Western Red Cedar log supplies in Canada are forcing unscheduled downtime at mills. Some will continue to run alternative species. As of this week, log shortages had little influence on pricing.

Panels: For yet another week, order files were the strength that OSB producers used to hold prices. In eastern markets, producers discounted to help build order files but moved prices back up as soon as that was accomplished. Demand for Southern Pine plywood remained lackluster, eroding order files and ushering a few discounts into the market. A groundswell of inquiries came late in the week from customers, which boosted producers' confidence. Thinning order files produced light discounts in sheathing early in the Western Fir plywood market. Discounts were confined to sheathing. Both Canadian plywood producers and distributors agreed: This week's plywood market was sideways. A few cash sales were reported, but overall activity was quiet. Mill order files were out to the week of April 16. According to particleboard and MDF producers, customers should prepare themselves for more price increases in April or early May. Resin suppliers have informed producers that the price of urea is on the rise.

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