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BC log exports to Asia soar in 2016, second only to 2013 volumes. China’s softwood lumber imports hit a new record in 2016. Sawmill margins in the Willamette Valley region increase as log prices slightly decline and lumber prices strengthen. Despite a small decline in 2016, housing affordability remains favorable in historical terms.
Douglas-fir log prices in western Oregon are slowly increasing as the gradual recovery in US housing markets continues. Strong demand in China in 2016H2 resulted in record imports of softwood lumber and logs. US inventory of existing homes for sale continued to decline in 2016, reaching levels last seen more than two decades ago. Wood fiber costs for Eastern Canada pulp mills the lowest in ten years.
US softwood log exports globally are expected to further decline in 2016, despite an increase in exports to China year-over-year. Canadian lumber exports to the US have increased by 20 percent on average in the year following the expiration of the SLA compared with the year prior. The spread between Douglas-fir domestic and export sawlog prices in the lower Columbia River region has vanished, with improving demand from China during 2016H2. The share of multi-family housing starts has declined in 2016 for the first time since 2009.
Douglas-fir log prices across the West Coast are slowly increasing as US housing markets continue their gradual recovery. Lumber prices fluctuate around the upper duty/quota threshold of the previous lumber agreement since early May. North American wood fiber prices have trended downward for most of 2015 and 2016. Household formation rates remain considerably low.
US softwood lumber imports from Canada in 2016 are on track to nine-year high. West Coast sawmill margins are expanding as lumber prices rise and log prices remain constant. Global pulpwood prices up in 2016Q2 after declining for seven consecutive quarters. Timber harvests in the US have increased by ten percent from 2011 to 2015.
The Global Sawlog Price Index rose 4.2 percent in 2016Q2. Whitewood log prices in the Puget Sound region have rebounded from five-year lows. Canadian lumber production in 2016H1 was eight percent ahead of the 2015 pace. Homeownership in the US fell to 62.9 percent in 2016Q2, matching 1965 for the lowest reading on record.
SPF lumber prices continue to rise, reaching levels last seen in late 2014. Pine sawtimber stumpage prices in the West South Central region continue to show no response to improved delivered log prices. New-home sales reach the highest monthly rate in over eight years. US timberland values positive after a weak start to 2016.
Global softwood lumber trade increased by 20 percent in 2016Q1, compared with 2015Q1. The spread between Douglas-fir log prices across the West Coast is slowly widening. Home affordability remains high but is declining as home prices rise. Timber market value holds up despite a slowdown in the number of acres traded.
US softwood lumber imports rose by 43 percent in 2016Q1 year-over-year. The price spread between Douglas-fir export sawlog grades in the lower Columbia region is high compared with historical levels, reflecting the recent slowdown in China's economy. Delivered pine sawlogs are most expensive relative to stumpage in the East South Central region. Canadian lumber output in March is at its highest level since 2007.
China’s imports of softwood logs rose in March to highest level in 12 months. The spread between southern yellow pine and other North American commodity lumber prices is widening again. Southern yellow pine sawlog prices remain unresponsive to rising housing starts. Pulp mills in Eastern Canada becoming more competitive with sharply declining wood costs.