The Ro-Mac Lumber & Supply, Inc. Wood Commodity Index (Index) moved lower as tropical rains and a subdued housing market fell prey to the dog days of summer. Only one item in the Index increased in price (15/32 CDX +$3 per thousand), with all others succumbing to the market’s downward trend. Unless there is a spike in housing sales or a late season hurricane, there will be little to move this market upward.
The dimensional lumber portion of the Index dropped 4.3 percent to $347.75 as wide-width pine led the retreat, with drops from 6.7-9.6 percent. Dimensional spruce dropped on average $15 per thousand, with declines in stud pricing staying below $10. Narrow-width 2x4 pine was down 4.2 percent as mills looked for buyers. Typically, with all of the rain in many areas of the south, pine pricing would be somewhat firmer due to logging constraints. We have not seen that yet.
The sheathing portion of the Index dropped 1.4 percent or on average about $4 per thousand. The declines in OSB sheathing were a little more pronounced retreating on average about $6 per thousand. Thicker CDX T&G pine plywood posted a decline of almost $40 per thousand, which is fairly significant. Pricing indicates that the supply side is more in charge than demand.
Commodity prices increase on demand and the enthusiasm in the market — currently, both are waning. Expect to see other building supply areas increase in price as true labor and operational costs increase; however, commodities may be in for a late year struggle. The next few weeks should clearly show us how things will end up.
Don Magruder is the Chief Executive Officer of Ro-Mac Lumber & Supply, Inc. in Central Florida (www.romaclumber.com), and he is a former President of the Southeast Mississippi Home Builders Association, and past Associate Vice President of the Home Builders Association of Lake County. To contact Magruder, email him at
The Ro-Mac Lumber & Supply, Inc. Wood Commodity Index (Index) for July 2016 took back its decrease from June by adding 3.3 percent or $10.80 per thousand. The increases in cost were not across the board, which indicates a weakness is possibly permeating the commodity markets. It remains to be seen if the markets can withstand the dog days of summer.
The dimensional lumber portion of the Index increased 0.4 percent as modest increases in spruce dimensional lumber were offset by larger drops in pine. Spruce stud pricing increased $8 to $13 per thousand, depending on the size, while dimensional 2x4 spruce added on average $5 per thousand. 2x6 spruce was down from $3 to $9 per thousand. The spread in 2x4 and 2x6 spruce indicates a market struggling to hold onto pricing.
The sheathing portion of the Index is split. CDX pine plywood increased $30 per thousand for 5/8” and 1/2” sizes while OSB sheathing was flat. This appears to be more of an individual species demand market instead of an overall housing demand increase market. Over the next 30-45 days, hurricane season could really dictate the direction of the sheathing market.
The biggest factor facing all businesses, especially those in the construction industry, is the proposed huge increase in workers’ compensation insurance now scheduled to possibly happen on October 1, 2016. The National Council on Compensation Insurance (NCCI) has recommended a 19.6% increase effective immediately for all policy holders to offset increased costs, which is a result of two Florida Supreme Court decisions and a new Senate bill of healthcare changes. These increases must still be approved by the state, but workers’ compensation insurance is priced from experience models. It appears that unless the laws are modified, the real cost of insurance is about to soar.
This huge increase in insurance will affect every person and company in the construction supply chain. Builders should start bidding projects based on higher labor costs. A land-falling United States hurricane could play havoc on the supply chain. This along with increases in insurance costs could cost builders a lot of money if they do not prepare properly. A price escalation clause is a must right now as builders should be very cautious heading into the fall—there are simply too many uncertainties.
The Ro-Mac Lumber & Supply, Inc. Wood Commodity Index for June dropped 2.0% as large declines in pine, especially wide-width, dragged most of the market down. Mills continue to struggle with balancing the long-term supply and demand equation in their favor because the housing market continues to be erratic. The trend for the year has been up but the earlier summer retreat has been a norm since the Great Recession. The question this year will be: Does hurricane season change the norm?
The dimensional portion of the Index dropped 0.7% to $353.14 per thousand as wide-width pine items were in full retreat, with declines of $70-$85 per thousand. Treated 2x4 pine gave back 7.0%, while 2x4 and 2x6 dimensional spruce was flat to up 1.6%. Stud pricing was a little stronger, with pricing averaging a 3.0% increase. No doubt it was a mixed bag over the last 30 days. Builders should keep a close eye on projects that are calling out specific types and sizes because the impact could be greater.
The sheathing portion of the Index declined 3.1% as both CDX and OSB sheathing retreated from last month’s levels. The unison decline of both items has not been typical and this could suggest a softness permeating the market. CDX pricing was down on average almost 4.0%, with OSB staying closer to 3.0%. This could all change suddenly if anywhere in the country a real hurricane threat materializes over the next few months. Builders would be wise to pad quotes and not use the lowest numbers for projects bid in the fall.
There is a lot of uncertainty in the market and the recent workers’ compensation ruling by the Florida Supreme Court will surely add to it. Lifting the cap on attorneys’ fees and expanding the days of disability for injured workers could result in rate increases of 17.1%, according the National Council on Compensation Insurance (NCCI). This is a huge increase that could really increase costs because it will affect building and supply at all levels. This compounding effect, along with increased opportunities for workers’ compensation abuse, could exacerbate an already bad labor market. Potentially, this is the greatest threat facing all builders this fall—adjust your bids and timetables.
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