The Ro-Mac Lumber & Supply, Inc. Whole House Commodity Index (Index) continued to trend in a very narrow pricing range throughout early December, as it dropped 0.2 percent to $30,314. Spotty demand fueled by early winter weather, coupled with declining fuel prices, left mills and manufacturers searching for business. The Index has priced out in a narrow range since spring, despite some volatility in the market, resulting in movers and decliners offsetting one another.
Confidence in steady growth and uncertainty in housing demand still remain huge components in the market. The huge decline in oil prices seems to be ushering a deflationary tone into the commodity market, which may tap down prices through the first quarter of 2015. Unless there are significant changes in housing lending policies, there seems to be no magic bullet for housing starts in January—just more of the same.
The decline in the Index was prompted by decreases in wood commodity prices. CDX Pine plywood dropped 6.2 percent this month while OSB sheathing gave back 7.7 percent. Pine dimensional was flat-to-down 4.3 percent, depending on size, while single-digit drops in spruce studs were offset by single-digit increases in spruce dimensional. 4x4 treated posts added 4.8 percent, as manufacturers searched for yellow pine stock for spring production.
Foundation metal products was the only group to move in unison with rebar adding 1.0 percent while foundation mesh surged 4.1 percent. The only other significant mover was a 6.0 percent increase in house wrap, which has been on a continuous sale for the last two years. While drywall and other building material sectors, such as insulation board, doors, and windows are indicating increases after the first of the year, the ability to make new higher prices stick could be in question.
Here are my concerns with the market and next year. I am concerned about the deflation in oil prices and the overall effect it has on commodity wood pricing. If there is no significant increase in demand, and mills have lower fuel costs, expect heavy discounting. While that is good for builders in the short-term, it is bad for a shaky supply channel in the long-term.
I am concerned 2015 will have a slow start, keeping the year from reaching expectations. While activity is okay in the Central Florida marketplace, it is not as brisk as it should be if 2015 is going to live up to its top billing as a breakout year. Professionals in real estate as well as lending and banking seem to have the same take on business—it is better than the depths of the Great Recession, and it has improved, but it is far from a good normal.
If 2015 is going to start off strong, lending institutions should be flooded with new mortgage applications; instead, most lenders are saying the number of new applications is just steady. It is hard to imagine steady producing a significantly improved number in the first quarter.
For the next 30 days, there will be little momentum in the marketplace to increase prices. Builders should re-bid projects that were bid months ago, as commodity prices have settled. When bidding future projects, builders should be mindful of today’s prices, which may be too low if spring building were to crank up.
I wish everyone a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!
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
Last month, the housing market was looking for traction. Based on recent pricing, it didn’t find it. The Ro-Mac Lumber & Supply, Inc. Whole House Commodity Index (Index) for November increased 0.1% with declining prices pacing a 4-to-1 advantage over advancing prices. The early wintry weather in the northern areas is not what the housing market needed, and there is a growing expectation that the year could end very spotty. This does not bode well for commodity prices, which includes declining fuel prices.
For the last six months, the Index stayed within a less-than-one-percent range. While the stability in pricing is welcomed by many builders, it probably underlines a malaise in housing demand. Most believe if demand had firmed, as originally forecast for 2014, then commodity pricing would be much stronger due to supply chain and manufacturing issues.
Recent 2015 housing forecasts by the National Home Builders Association and Moody’s predict huge gains next year; however, many in the industry are jaded because these same forecasts over the last five years have not materialized. Consider the forecast for 2014 predicted 23 percent growth in housing, and some believe the actual number will come in well below 8 percent. Another bad winter and slow start to 2015 will only fuel this skepticism.
As the weather has gotten colder over the last few weeks pricing has dropped. Expect that trend to continue. Most dealers and distributors are buying “hand to mouth” because most believe the market has little momentum to go up. There is some peril given the current state of trucking and longer lead times.
For the most part, builders should expect a flat-to-down trend in pricing to the end of year when annual price increases for such items as insulation board, drywall, doors and other building products will take hold. Whether these annual price increases can take hold will depend more on weather and demand than actual increased costs.
The Ro-Mac Lumber & Supply, Inc. Whole House Commodity Index (Index) for October 2014 is just like the housing market—it’s looking for traction. Manufacturers and mills believe they are in control of pricing one month, and the next month they are begging for orders. Although the general trend has improved, uncertainty remains a constant factor in housing.
Without a clear and sustained upward movement in housing, we should continue to expect volatility. The Index rose 0.4% to $30,350.60. This marks the sixth straight data point in which the Index priced out in a very narrow range. The message is clear—housing is still facing headwinds.
The following were the notable price movers in the Index from September to October:
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 agt
The Ro-Mac Lumber & Supply, Inc. Whole House Commodity Index (Index) for September 2014 remained par with August, as price gains were offset by price decreases in other areas. America’s housing market is in purgatory between boom and bust with builders uncertain if next year will be heaven or hell.
Most analysts believe the gain in housing starts, in July, was a result of the normal adjustment from unexpected lower starts, earlier in the year, and they do not expect an upward trend. The problem continues to be, ordinary people are finding it very difficult to qualify for a home loan. In addition, the cash and investment buyers, who propelled the markets over the last couple of years, may be running out of steam.
The Index increased a dismal $8 to $30,219, netting out a zero percent difference from August to September. The following were the price movers within the Index:
The declines in plywood were precipitated by the market settling down after a plywood mill fire in Springfield, Oregon back in August. It took a few weeks for the mill to determine that production could keep up with demand. Mills are looking for anything that can create an upward move in pricing.
The Index dropped 3.2% since last September, and the impetus going forward does not appear to be upward. Last fall, the Index remained flat despite a strong year-end. This year, without an unexpected pop in business, builders should expect pricing to remain flat or moderate. The next few months will be a good time to build.
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