Seeking New Lumber Sources in Chile

The National Association of Home Builders today completed four days of productive talks with more than 100 Chilean government, trade and industry officials that focused on increasing exports of softwood lumber and other wood products to America.

“We support opening up competition in the U.S. lumber market because we know that it will benefit American families who want to buy homes and U.S. builders who are seeking a steady supply of affordably priced lumber,” said National Association of Home Builders CEO Jerry Howard.”

The talks covered several areas, including establishing contacts among Chilean producers and American buyers and identifying and dealing with any policy barriers to increasing the volume of Chilean exports from their current level.

National Association of Home Builders made contacts with two of the three largest Chilean lumber producers and a number of other smaller producers who all indicated they will work together with their government to help increase exports. In addition, National Association of Home Builders was able to meet in Chile with Swedish lumber producers who expressed an interest in continuing conversations about increasing lumber exports to the U.S. and building a stronger relationship.

The meetings in Chile come at a time when the U.S. and Canada are in discussions over a new softwood lumber trade agreement. Though U.S. home builders would ideally prefer to purchase all of their softwood lumber and wood products from domestic producers, America today does not have the domestic capacity to meet its demand for lumber. Canada is by far the largest exporter of softwood lumber into the U.S. The latest three-year average share of Canadian imported lumber in the U.S. market is 28%.

A nine-year softwood lumber agreement between the U.S. and Canada that established a system of fees and quotas on Canadian imports to the United States that were triggered in response to changes in the market price of softwood lumber expired last October. The two nations are now engaged in a one-year “cooling off” period – meaning no trade disputes can be filed by either country regarding softwood lumber imports – until October 12.

Since the 1980s, numerous disputes have disrupted trade patterns, leading to unnecessary cost increases for industries such as home building that rely on softwood lumber, and straining U.S. relations with its neighbor to the north. This short-sighted political stalemate has left the American housing sector in the lurch.

As U.S. and Canadian negotiators discuss the parameters of a new agreement, National Association of Home Builders believes that it must be mindful of the U.S. housing market to ensure American consumers have access to a stable, dependable and affordable lumber supply.

Though Chile currently holds just 1.22% of the U.S. lumber market, National Association of Home Builders sees great potential for growth because the two nations have a free trade agreement.

“As the U.S. housing recovery continues to pick up steam, the demand for softwood lumber will grow,” said Howard. “This is why expanding lumber trade with Chile can benefit both nations. Chile would have the opportunity to increase its exports and market share to the United States, while U.S. industries such as housing that depend on a reliable supply of softwood lumber would be able to meet the housing needs of American consumers and to keep lumber and housing affordable.”

Producer Prices Decrease…For Now

Producer Prices Decrease…For Now

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) released the Producer Price Indexes (PPI) for August. Inflation in prices received by producers (prior to sales to consumers) were unchanged in August following a 0.2% increase in July. Separately, a 0.4% increase in prices for services was offset by a 0.6% decline in prices for goods, driven mainly by falling gas prices. Excluding food and energy, goods prices were -0.2% lower in August.

Building Materials
Among building materials, softwood lumber prices partially reversed the 2.4% increase in July, declining 2.2% in August. Prices have hovered in this range since early 2014. Similarly, OSB price dropped 0.8% after a 1.0% increase in July. Overall, soft overseas demand has kept domestic supply at home placing downward pressure on prices.
Gypsum prices dropped another 0.9% in August, bringing the decline from a February peak to 6.5%. Gypsum prices are now slightly below the housing boom peak (although single family housing starts are just above one half of a healthier/lower pre-boom pace). But it’s approaching the end of the year and a recent tradition is entering its fifth year. Major producers of drywall and ceiling tiles (made of Gypsum) are announcing an array of price increases scattered through the second half of this year and 2016.
National Gypsum, USG, Armstrong, American Gypsum and CertainTeed/Saint-Gobain have all announced price increases, ranging from 5% to 10% now and another 10% next August, for wallboard and/or ceiling tiles, some effective as early as August 2015 and running through 2016.
It looks like recent gypsum price declines will be short lived.