Northeast Business Trends

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Northeast Business Trends 1
By Cadance Hanson
Staff Writer

Northeastern Softwood lumber suppliers reported, at the time of this writing, a variation of market activity.

A contact in Massachusetts said that the market is very “hit or miss. We’re getting a lot of conflicting reports from people. Some people have a strong order file, some people don’t. It doesn’t seem to be limited to any particular geographic area or industry, either.” She also added that it is worse than six months ago, citing that a lack of confidence in the economic markets, which is driving people to exercise more caution and “play their cards close to their vest,” is a contributing factor.

The company handles Eastern White Pine and Western Red Cedar, which is selling the best, in all NELMA and WRCLA grades.

As for their customer base, they sell primarily to industrial manufacturers and independent lumber yards. Regarding commentary from their customers about the market, they said, “The response I’m getting from my client base is just that they’re being very cautious with their finances. It’s an election year. There are a lot of questions about interest rates and purchasing power.”

In Vermont, a lumber spokesperson said that the market is “kind of slow” but “about the same” as it was six months ago because “we didn’t get the seasonal pickup we normally would have had.”

He said that they sell Eastern White Pine and “do everything from 4/4 to 12/4.”

Typically, they sell to wholesalers and manufacturers. They said that, as for their customers, “most people are telling me the same thing, that it’s pretty slow for them right now.”

In New Hampshire, a contact noted that the market is “mediocre at best,” but “slightly better” than six months ago, during which they were “kind of in a down- ward trend.” He also stated, “We did have a small uptick in the market, but we’ve been back sliding here for a while. Why was it better? Maybe coming into the spring, we still had business, now it seems like they’re waiting for the last shoe to drop to purchase anything.”

They sell Spruce and Fir in 2-inch thickness. The most activity they are experiencing is with their 2x6s even though there is “higher demand for the 2×10, but there is very little of it around,” according to the source. He also noted that “most of the loads we get are heavily mixed, like wholesaling-type of orders.”

The company sells to buying groups, distributors and wholesalers, in addition to talking to a few retailers. When asked about any comments their customers have provided about the marketplace for their goods, the source mentioned that “a lot of them are on the same level, saying their customers aren’t interested in buying anything unless they can get it tomorrow. They can’t wait. We can tell from their inquiries. The potential customers try to counter us as well, trying to get us to take a cheaper price.”

The spokesperson doesn’t believe that transportation is “affecting us as much as the higher interest rates and as much as they say the economy is doing well, it doesn’t seem to be passing on to the homebuyers. The higher interest rates are kind of putting a damper on the housing market.”

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