As if you need more proof that inflation is finally starting to pick up, lumber prices rose to a 12-year high last week, supported mainly by expectations that steep duties will soon be levied on cheap softwood imports from Canada. Lumber futures rose to nearly $415 per thousand board feet last Monday, a level unseen since March 2005, soon after homeownership peaked here in the U.S.
At issue is a mini-trade war between U.S. and Canadian loggers. For some time now, the American lumber industry has blamed its Canadian counterpart of unfairly dumping lumber in the U.S. that’s far below market value. Now, several factors are pushing timber prices higher. Chief among them are the likelihood of duties being raised at the Canadian border, possibly as early as next month; President Donald Trump’s calls to renegotiate NAFTA, and growing demand for new homes following the housing crisis as consumer optimism improves and millennial buyers finally seem eager to enter the market.
Shares of Canfor Corporation and Western Forest Products, Canada’s number two and number five lumber producers by annual output, have had a good three months, advancing 25.5 % and 16.8 % respectively as of April 12. Timberland-owner Weyerhaeuser has also impressed lately.