It’s been 5 ½ months now since the COVID-19 Pandemic unofficially established itself in the US, and we’ve heard everything from predictions of doomsday to predictions for a steady recovery from this virus.  Cases that were on the decline have started to increase again in some states, but the death rate has come down significantly.  It’s hard to get a feel for where things are going, but very recent news about successful preliminary vaccine trials add some promise and hope to getting this all behind us.

Our last market report looked at how the lumber markets have behaved throughout this COVID period.  Though there is no question that the pandemic’s affect on businesses has in turn impacted our hardwood markets to some degree, it hasn’t been as bad as many had predicted (so far 1).  The decrease in several species prices seems to be more in line with a “typical” seasonal consequence (the “summer” effect) than direct impacts from COVID-related circumstances, though there is still uncertainty with how supply chain interruptions/business shutdowns will eventually influence our hardwood markets.

Generally speaking, lumber sales have been somewhat slow (again, attributed mainly to the summer season), but several firms have reported “slight upticks in domestic demand recently.  Several flooring plants said their sales have picked up, especially in the Northeast, and their finished goods inventories have fallen.”  A Pennsylvania mill has also reported that it currently had “sufficient log supply” to run two shifts again.

Ash sales have slowed down over the last week or so, yet the price has stayed consistent since the end of May (at $415/MBF for 4/4 #1 Common).  Basswood pricing has remained consistent at $370/MBF for many months, and now manufacturing using basswood is reportedly coming back online again after COVID-related factory shutdowns.  Despite the continuing reports that Cherry orders remain slow, its price ($525/MBF) has stayed flat since January. Hickory took a slight decrease since last month, landing at a current price of $505/MBF.  Hard maple has tailed off slightly since the beginning of July in our region (currently listed at $830/MBF), though the markets to our north have seen a slight increase in competition recently.  Soft maple has also taken a slight tick downward (currently at $815/MBF), but a concentration yard has reported that kiln dried sales of soft maple have been “excellent” lately.   Red oak prices have remained stable since the end of June ($545/MBF), with sales in general remaining diminished but production throttled back to control supply.  This has sparked some increase in price for kiln dried red oak in certain areas, and comments have been made that European and Middle Eastern demand is “improving, and domestic demand is decent.”  Poplar has remained flat since the middle of June ($350/MBF), and reports are mixed regarding its market demand – some sources say that they are now only selling green poplar since there is no advantage to kiln drying it, and others are saying that poplar demand is “picking up and all grades are moving.”

As previously mentioned, even when our markets seem to be in flux, the “unique” nature of our hardwoods provides a stabilizing effect and the combination of enjoying demand from both domestic and international markets provides hardwood timberland owners some price protection.  Timber continues to be in demand, and some species are selling at suitable prices right now.  Should you need any help in selling your timber, or have any basic questions, please call one of our foresters – you will be glad that you did!

(Major Source/Quotes from: Hardwood Review Weekly publications, Charlotte, NC)

1 “so far” was the caveat used in our last article, and we’ll continue to hedge our bets with that term until, well – until we can look back on all this in hindsight. 😊

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