Northeast Business Trends

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Northeast Business Trends 1
By Cadance Hanson
Staff Writer

Softwood lumber suppliers in the Northeast region are experiencing slower conditions, and while many say activity is better, at the time of this writing, than this time last year, it is still slow.

A contact in Maine who handles SPF, Red Pine, Spruce in No. 2 Common and Better said the No. 2 Common is moving better and the economy grades are slower.

“Our customers are generally more optimistic than they were in 2023,” he said. “My opinion is we have a lack of certainty in the market. The election plays into it along with economic issues and high interest rates are certainly a factor. There are a variety of things affecting the market so it’s not just one thing.”

As for transportation he said that is the one bright spot. “Transportation has improved greatly. I think we’ll see better times in the coming months for the lumber market. I’m typically a pessimist but it looks like consumption may go up a little bit, and production is going to be down a little bit. The general market is going to see a balance between what’s produced and what the takeaway is.”

A Softwood supplier in Vermont said market activity is about the same as it was this time last year. Carrying Eastern White Pine in 1×4 and 4×8, he said his customers’ wholesale markets are slow with signs of increased activity. As for the factors involved in the market he said, “I think it’s a dynamic situation and I can’t put a finger on one thing.

Transportation prices and availability are not an issue but interest rates are sky high and there are many people holding off because of it.”

When asked about the next six months he said he doesn’t expect improvement and market conditions will likely stay the same.

In New Hampshire one buyer said, “It’s been difficult and expensive. Activity has been about the same since the first of 2024.”

Purchasing Spruce-Pine-Fir in 1×3 to 2×10 up to 16-feet long the buyer said inflation, high interest rates and an overall poor economic condition is to blame for the soft activity. “Housing starts are off and people are not doing any projects that incur interest rates.”

When asked about transportation issues the contact said availability is scarce and pricing is high. “If you can find the trucks in the timeframe you need them is one thing, but pricing is increasing and we think a lot of that is because the few that are left in the trucking industry are demanding higher rates. They’ll continue to get them because availability is in short supply.”

He said the purchasing conditions have been poor for the last two years. “I don’t see much of a change until the conditions change. When availability of reasonable financing happens then we’ll see some improvement but not until inflation and interest rates change.”

Several sources in the region accounted for slow to stagnant activity and the general consensus seems to be more of the same in the months to come.

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