Sawmills Are Selling Boards Faster Than They Can Cut Them

Lumber demand is so strong that Resolute Forest Products Inc.’s order book exceeds its inventory, according to Chief Executive Officer Remi Lalonde.

After trucking and railcar shortages hampered shipments during the first quarter, Resolute is now holding extra inventories at a time of record wood prices, Lalonde said during a conference call Thursday. Still, even those stockpiles aren’t enough to satisfy the North American building boom, so Resolute is ramping up output. Full-year production is expected to rise by 7%.

Lumber futures have surged 85% this year amid sky-high demand from homebuilders and remodelers. The price touched an all-time high of $1,334.60 per thousand board feet two days ago and on Thursday surged by the $32 maximum allowed under Chicago Mercantile Exchange rules.

Sawmills Are Selling Boards Faster Than They Can Cut Them

“We’re selling volume that we haven’t sawed yet,” the CEO said. The inventory buildup during a price rally was “kind of a happy accident.”

Idle Sawmills

Investors punished Resolute for posting adjusted per-share profit that trailed every analyst estimate compiled by Bloomberg. Executives cited the transportation snags for the underperformance. The stock plunged as much as 17%.

To boost output, Resolute restarted a mill in Ontario that had been idle for two years, as well as one in Arkansas. Before Thursday, Resolute shares had more than doubled in a year, pushing the company’s market valuation to more than $1 billion.

The shares were down 15% at $13.23 at 2:39 p.m. in New York.

Also on Thursday, Canfor Corp. said first-quarter lumber shipments were 7% below the prior three-month period. The company blamed severe winter weather in the U.S. South that disrupted deliveries, as well as transportation constraints in Canada.

Record Income

Still, the lumber rally and improved global pulp-market conditions meant it reaped record operating income of C$603 million ($490 million). This compared with an C$88.8 million loss a year earlier.

“This unprecedented pricing substantially outweighed the impacts of higher market-related log costs in Western Canada, combined with moderately lower North American shipment volumes stemming from transportation constraints,” and a stronger Canadian dollar,” Canfor said in a statement.

Global lumber demand is expected to remain solid with strong home building and remodeling to continue through June, the Vancouver-based company said.

Canfor dropped as much as 4.6%.

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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