August 2018 Ro-Mac Whole House Commodity Index

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WHOLE HOUSE COMMODITY INDEX - August 2018

by Don Magruder, CEO of Ro-Mac Lumber & Supply, Inc.

In August, the Ro-Mac Lumber & Supply, Inc. Whole House Commodity Index (Index) dropped in price for a second month in a row, and the declines this month were accelerated by a multiple of two. The wood commodity markets have been a bloodbath for mills and dealers as uncertainty, demand erosion, and overinflated pricing have finally merged.  As they typically do, the mills and manufacturers pushed the markets to a breaking point where builders and consumers found the pricing too high to build affordably.  The worry now for many is the housing market may have broken itself in a prequel to a recession. 

The Index dropped 4.2 percent to $34,244.16, which is just above February’s levels.  If the demand equation continues to erode, expect pricing in all sectors of building supplies to struggle, especially if the hurricane season remains quiet.  The June reports on housing were not good as starts, permits, new home sales, and existing sales all trended downward versus the prior year. 

The main price movers in the Index in the last 30 days were:

  • 5/8” rebar retreated 4.6 percent on imported loads sitting on the docks.
  • CDX plywood was down 24.0 percent while OSB gave back 20.3 percent.  Note— in the last week, the sheathing market steadied and actually added back $10-$15 per thousand.
  • Spruce studs were down 13.2 percent while 2x4 dimensional spruce slid 19.2 percent and 2x6 gave back 19.8 percent. 
  • Pine dimensional lumber was a little more mixed.  2x4 pine dropped 9.4 percent and 2x6 pine gave back a whopping 19.0 percent.  However, 2x12 pine added 9.9 percent.  Pricing was width-and-length specific in what determined the increase or decline. 
  • 4x4-8 treated posts declined 12.9 percent as most treated lumber followed the bright pine. 
  • Colonial base moulding added 3.4 percent on high overseas costs.
  • Garage doors added 4.4 percent on increased steel tariffs. 
  • Truss prices declined 4.9 percent on lower 2x4 pine pricing.

While builders are celebrating the decline in pricing, they should also be concerned.  Do these declines indicate that a far worse slowdown in housing is occurring?  If cracks in roofing, drywall and door/window pricing occur next month, builders should be concerned.

While last week’s increase in wood sheathing pricing may be encouraging to some, without an improvement in housing demand or a worsening hurricane season, those prices will probably not hold.  If the weather holds for the next four-to-five weeks and the uncertainty in tariffs and housing persist, expect pricing to drift sideways and a little lower.    

Builders should stay close with suppliers and be careful with long-term pricing.  There is a lot of volatility in the markets. 

The Ro-Mac Lumber & Supply, Inc. Whole House Commodity Index is based on wholesale costs of the base components to build a 2,200-square foot wood frame home with a concrete stem wall in Central Florida.  The Index includes foundation, metal, concrete, block, stucco, cement, wood framing, siding, sheathings, trusses, roofing, drywall, insulation, windows, doors, trim, garage doors, and most building hardware.  It does not include décor, electrical, plumbing, mechanical, landscaping, or labor.  Because the Index uses current wholesale costs, this should be a strong indicator of the direction of building prices for the next 30-45 days.

Don Magruder is the Chief Executive Officer of Ro-Mac Lumber & Supply, Inc. in Central Florida.  Go to www.romaclumber.com to sign-up for the Index and other free market reports.  To sign-up for this information via email, contact Rebecca Ballash at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

July 2018 Whole House Commodity Index

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WHOLE HOUSE COMMODITY INDEX - July 2018

by Don Magruder, CEO of Ro-Mac Lumber & Supply, Inc.

Since mid-June, the Ro-Mac Lumber & Supply, Inc. Whole House Commodity Index (Index) dropped 1.9 percent.  This marks the first decline in the Index since December 2017. The Index increased 10.1 percent from January through June 2018, so this retreat may be the first sign of market headwinds.  Little doubt, the price run could not continue at this pace. Reports of projects being delayed or cancelled because of pricing are starting to be heard.

The big question is, “Does July’s drop in pricing represent a breather or a new downward trend?”  The answer may be found in the weather reports over the next few months. A mild hurricane season coupled with continued interest rate increases could cool these hot markets.

Wood commodities and sheathings pushed lower as demand softened and most lumber dealers had little appetite to buy over-priced wood.  Hand-to-mouth purchasing is okay if there aren’t any hurricanes—this is when the volatility can slap back hard.

Here are the significant price movers for the month:

  1. Metal foundation wire mesh added 12.9 percent while foundation rebar retreated 4.4 percent.  The supply chain is disjointed and teetering on what is available.

  2. CDX pine plywood dropped 11.7 percent while OSB Sheathing retreated 21.5 percent.  The current demand simply cannot support these prices.

  3. 2x4 yellow pine dropped 11.7 percent, 2x6 declined 13.7 percent, and 2x12 pine gave back 6.3 percent.  

  4. 2x4 spruce dimensional dropped 4.7 percent, 2x6 spruce was off 8.8 percent, and 2x4 studs stayed flat with a 0.6 percent decline.  Carloads of studs remain harder to buy.

  5. Metal hangers added between 12 to 16 percent due to steel tariffs.

  6. Drywall added 4.0 percent on increased manufacturing costs from a mid-year planned increase.

Inventories are low, the markets are in flux, and everything is primed for volatility.  Builders should pray for a quiet hurricane season if they want to see these declines continue.

The last half of the year will need to see increased permit activity to support these pricing levels.  The hoopla of tariffs is waning, and manufacturers will have to decide if they want to sell products. Just as bad as the weather, builders need the politicians in Washington, D.C. and those moving interest rates to settle down, so the markets can stabilize.  Chaos and uncertainty must ease if this building cycle has any chance of continuing.

My advice this month is simple—watch The Weather Channel for a quiet hurricane season and watch CNN to see if the chaos and tariff talk in Washington, D.C. calms down.  We need calm in these markets now.

The Ro-Mac Lumber & Supply, Inc. Whole House Commodity Index is based on wholesale costs of the base components to build a 2,200-square foot wood frame home with a concrete stem wall in Central Florida.  The Index includes foundation, metal, concrete, block, stucco, cement, wood framing, siding, sheathings, trusses, roofing, drywall, insulation, windows, doors, trim, garage doors, and most building hardware.  It does not include décor, electrical, plumbing, mechanical, landscaping, or labor.  Because the Index uses current wholesale costs, this should be a strong indicator of the direction of building prices for the next 30-45 days.

Don Magruder is the Chief Executive Officer of Ro-Mac Lumber & Supply, Inc. in Central Florida.  Go to www.romaclumber.com to sign-up for the Index and other free market reports.  To sign-up for this information via email, contact Rebecca Ballash at  This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

June 2018 Whole House Commodity Index

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WHOLE HOUSE COMMODITY INDEX - June 2018

by Don Magruder, CEO of Ro-Mac Lumber & Supply, Inc.

The Ro-Mac Lumber & Supply, Inc. Whole House Commodity Index (Index) for June 2018 set another record high at $36,436.94 as material costs increased at an even faster pace.  The Index added 2.4 percent since mid-May—almost doubling the rate of increase in the prior month. Until this week, pricing has been moving upward almost unabated; however, some cracks in prices has developed over the last 7 to 10 days.  Market professionals are trying to determine if this is a breather or the first small signs of a retreat.

From January 15 to June 15, 2018, the Index increased $3,327.85 or 10.1 percent.  It is important to note this does not include the new United States tariff policy or price increases in mechanical, electrical or plumbing, which have been greatly impacted by labor increases.

The Index represents the structural material to build a 2,200-square foot home, and the notable price movers in the Index over the last 30 days were:

  • Foundation metal continues to increase because of tariffs.  Rebar was up 1.7 percent while rolled mesh added 3.3 percent.
  • Rolled foundation poly film added 13.1 percent.
  • CDX pine plywood was up 11.3 percent while OSB sheathing added 10.5 percent.  The sheathing markets remain strong as trucking problems persist and imports of CDX plywood are reduced.
  • Trusses were up 2.1 percent on increased lumber and metal plate costs directly impacted by the steel tariffs.
  • Dimensional spruce lumber was mixed as buyers started to question levels.  2x4 spruce studs were up 4.9 percent and 2x4 spruce increased 2.7 percent, while 2x6 spruce dropped 1.7 percent.
  • Wide-width pine dimensional pushed that market with 2x12 pine adding 3.1 percent and 2x6 pine pushing up 10.9 percent.  2x4 pine retreated 3.5 percent on lagging sales.
  • 4x4 treated posts added 1.6 percent.
  • Engineered I-joist beams added 9.6 percent on market increases in OSB.
  • Roofing shingles added another 5.9 percent as roofing manufacturers are taking advantage of a larger backlog and entry into hurricane season.
  • Interior door units were up 1.0 percent on high slab prices and bifold doors added 7.1 percent.
  • I have also been advised that concrete prices are poised to join the price increase party possibly as early as July.  

Who can eat a 10.1 percent increase in a five-month period?  Builders who are already strapped with labor issues and dwindling margins?  A consumer who has incurred record debt? Or, suppliers that are still reeling from the Great Recession?  The answer is simple—no one can. Housing demand will become victim if prices do not settle down and begin to drop.  The line between affordability and demand might have already been crossed. If so, expect these markets to retreat. If not, they could have a few more months of legs.

A weak hurricane season would be the best thing for pushing these markets downward.  Keep a close eye on the commodity markets, things could get real bumpy the next few months.  If demand eases, the pricing floor could collapse very quickly.

A Price Adjustment Clause is a smart thing to have in your contracts.  Ro-Mac Lumber & Supply, Inc. has drafted a clause that is tied to this Index.  If you would like to obtain a free copy of Ro-Mac’s Price Adjustment Clause, email Rebecca Ballash at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .  

The Ro-Mac Lumber & Supply, Inc. Whole House Commodity Index is based on wholesale costs of the base components to build a 2,200-square foot wood frame home with a concrete stem wall in Central Florida.  The Index includes foundation, metal, concrete, block, stucco, cement, wood framing, siding, sheathings, trusses, roofing, drywall, insulation, windows, doors, trim, garage doors, and most building hardware.  It does not include décor, electrical, plumbing, mechanical, landscaping, or labor.  Because the Index uses current wholesale costs, this should be a strong indicator of the direction of building prices for the next 30-45 days.

Don Magruder is the Chief Executive Officer of Ro-Mac Lumber & Supply, Inc. in Central Florida.  Go to www.romaclumber.com to sign-up for the Index and other free market reports.  To sign-up for this information via email, contact Rebecca Ballash at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

May 2018 Whole House Commodity Index

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WHOLE HOUSE COMMODITY INDEX - May 2018

by Don Magruder, CEO of Ro-Mac Lumber & Supply, Inc.

The Ro-Mac Lumber & Supply, Inc. Whole House Commodity Index (Index) for May 2018 regained its upward momentum by increasing 1.3 percent to $35,580.86—a record high. The price flattening that occurred in the April Index appears to have been only a moment of consolidation as the price inflators of the market seem to be in charge. Tariffs on steel, aluminum, and Canadian lumber; shortages in labor and trucking; and market uncertainty and turmoil are creating an inflation-rich environment. How much more in cost increases can this housing market endure before it goes into revolt?

The primary price movers in this month’s Index were:

  • Foundation wire mesh jumped 15.6 percent while rebar added 7.7 percent.
  • CDX pine plywood retreated 3.1 percent while OSB sheathing added 6.2 percent. It is uncommon to see these two sheathing products move in opposite directions. This could be a sign of an unsure market.
  • 2x6-16 pine added 24.3 percent, 2x12 pine added 13.5 percent, and 2x4 pine added 8.2 percent.
  • Spruce studs were up 5.8 percent, 2x4 dimensional added 7.1 percent, and 2x6 spruce barely increased 0.3 percent.
  • 4x4 treated posts added 3.4 percent while 2x4 treated jumped 5.5 percent.
  • Architectural shingles increased 7.2 percent (as well as roofing shingle accessories).
  • Tile backer and drip edge both added 2.0 percent plus.

Many of this month’s increases are being sent with another caveat—longer lead times and delays. Improving weather in the northern states as well as a shortage of truckers brought on by agricultural season are creating shipping nightmares. Higher trucking costs are being tacked onto higher material costs with longer lead times.

Inventory and supply in the chain are facing a silent foe that many hesitate to discuss—cash flow. Higher commodity costs and longer lead times are busting the cash flow of many companies in the supply business. Plus, builders who can ill-afford to pay more for products on projects that have already been bid are taking longer to pay for materials. This burning through cash as well as money lost on projects due to inflation could start the undoing for many.

Over the next couple of months, inflation in pricing and supply will be in charge—expect to pay more and wait longer. Afterwards, I am not sure the housing demand will begin to tap out to higher costs. The affordability equation is getting very close to the demand quotient and I am not convinced these prices can be sustained. A bad hurricane season will give it fuel, so things are very murky.

Builders should have a price escalation clause in their contracts and be mindful that a long-term relationship with suppliers is very important. Correctly bidding and not being suckered into low prices will be the difference in making money—be careful.

The Ro-Mac Lumber & Supply, Inc. Whole House Commodity Index is based on wholesale costs of the base components to build a 2,200-square foot wood frame home with a concrete stem wall in Central Florida.  The Index includes foundation, metal, concrete, block, stucco, cement, wood framing, siding, sheathings, trusses, roofing, drywall, insulation, windows, doors, trim, garage doors, and most building hardware.  It does not include décor, electrical, plumbing, mechanical, landscaping, or labor.  Because the Index uses current wholesale costs, this should be a strong indicator of the direction of building prices for the next 30-45 days.

Don Magruder is the Chief Executive Officer of Ro-Mac Lumber & Supply, Inc. in Central Florida.  Go to www.romaclumber.com to sign-up for the Index and other free market reports.  To sign-up for this information via email, contact Rebecca Ballash at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

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