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  • Writer's pictureDon Magruder

May 2024 Lumber & Commodity Report

By Don Magruder

The RoMac Building Supply Wood Commodity Index for May 2024 decreased 21.4 percent to $437.72 per thousand which wiped out last month’s increase of 9.2 percent.  The interest rate market capitulation has resulted in builder uncertainty which has the market spooked, and the reduced size in footprint due to higher costs is influencing volumes. 

Housing starts have not remained consistent, and new numbers released this morning by the United States Census Bureau continue that trend.  Housing starts for April were 5.7 percent above March coming in at 1,287,000, but these numbers reflect a decline of .6 from last year.  For the wood commodity markets to cement price levels, housing starts need to continue to improve and builders gain more confidence that the homes they put on the market in 6 months can be sold in a relatively short time at a good price. 

The dimensional lumber portion of the Index dropped 10.8 percent to $411.31 per thousand as the market capitulated to the realities of the late spring housing market.  It was across the board with no species not getting hit. Here are the significant movers in wood commodities over the last 30 days. 

  1. Spruce studs dropped 6.3 to 9.4 percent based on size.

  2. Dimensional 2x4 spruce dropped 9.3 to 16.7 percent based on length while 2x6 spruce gave back $60 to $70 per thousand or 13.8 to 16.7 percent. 

  3. 2x12 pine dropped $15 to $60 per thousand with longer lengths retreating the most.

  4. Pine 2x4 treated dropped 6.4 percent. 

The sheathing portion of the RoMac Wood Commodity Index dropped a whopping 27.2 percent to $457.45 per thousand as a selloff in OSB sheathing drove the market downward over the last 30 days. OSB sheathing was down $200 per thousand or about 32 percent and it carried CDX pine downward from $118 to $134 per thousand or just shy of 20 percent.  Two things to consider.  First, mid-week this week showed flat to slightly down in CDX pine plywood while OSB sheathing added $5 per thousand.  This suggests that price capitulation may be done.  Secondly, hurricane season is upon us, and the predictions are for a bad one.  If this comes true, these numbers will not stay low. 

As the market improves and hurricane season cranks up, builders should expect these markets to heat up.  Be careful that core inflation in construction projects is not being hidden by this wood commodity downturn in late spring.  I suggest builders implement price escalation clauses in any projects set to start in the fall.  I expect volatility later in the summer and fall.  

The RoMac Wood Commodity Index is a weighted lumber and sheathing composite based on usage in Central Florida. By using wholesale pricing, the Index is a good indicator of the pricing direction for the next 30 days.

Don Magruder is the Chief Executive Officer of RoMac Building Supply in Central Florida, he is a former president of the Southeast Mississippi Home Builders Association and a past Associate Vice President of the Home Builders Association of Lake County.

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