Lumber Sees Surprise Win as Shut-In Americans Fix Up Their Homes

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(Bloomberg) -- North Americans stuck at home aren’t just baking more bread. They’re also undertaking repairs.

Lumber futures are heading for their second-straight monthly gain at a time when gloom from the coronavirus pandemic was expected to curb demand. Prices soared 15% in April and have gained another 15% this month, placing them among the best performing commodities tracked by Bloomberg.

Aggressive supply cuts from big producers such as West Fraser Timber Co. and Canfor Corp. have tightened supplies at a time when people staying in and deciding to fix up their homes, said Kevin Mason, managing director of Vancouver-based ERA Forest Products Research.

“You had a lot of people saying, ‘gee I’m stuck at home let’s build that deck, let’s fix up whatever we need to fix,” said Mason, noting the repair and remodel segment accounts for about 40% of the lumber market.

Lumber Sees Surprise Win as Shut-In Americans Fix Up Their Homes

The coronavirus pandemic was expected to weigh on lumber markets as stay-at-home orders shuttered permitting offices and surging unemployment curtailed demand. On April 1, the price touched $251.50, the lowest for a most-active contract since February 2016.

Despite the gloom, there’s optimism that the housing market is bouncing back with mortgage rates at record lows. More people are being given the option to work from home and may decide to upgrade their existing space or consider moving to a bigger house to accommodate an office, Mason said.

“The business didn’t slow nearly as much as expected,” Mason said by telephone.

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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