Last week it was about demand. This week it’s all about the structure. I mentioned a few years back how the face of this industry was changing. I think it’s here. Never have we seen home builders’ stock hit new highs in a lumber bear market. And never have we seen a distributor have more sales than many of the producers. Today the product moves very fluidly from the mill to the builder and without disruptions allows for a lower-priced commodity. That is what it looks like out there.
Let’s look at a few numbers. In the last few weeks, Pulte, and DR Horton both hit 5-year highs. Toll was right behind them. The lack of supply on the market allows them to build and sell every day at a continued high margin. Wallstreet sees that continuing. So, despite the high prices of homes and high mortgages, the market is still out there.
Now let’s go through the first quarter numbers of two of the players. West Fraser did $1.6 billion in sales with a net loss of $ 42 million. Builders First Source did $3.8 billion in sales with a net income of $333.8 million. Their gross profit margin was up 300 pts to 35.3%. You would have to group a few mills together to reach BFS sales. This is just one of the big three distributors out there. The mills have been laser-focused on the contracts and consignment structure. It works well in a bull market as the print tends to hold a premium. It doesn’t work in a bear market where print holds a discount. It is a win-win for distribution. An upmarket allows for an additional margin to be added. In a down market, they get the spread between the cash price and the selling price. Basically in a down market, they keep all the margin excess. I have to add that there are many players out there that have some of the same programs because of their sheer size today.
For us lay people what this means is that the remainder of the market is in competition with themselves. The net result is more product chasing fewer dollars in a flat market. You either go to a third party for help (the futures market) or you chase the low. A $60 premium is a windfall. A $30 premium is great.
It took till Friday, but we did hit the $485 number. There wasn’t even a ripple of short covering for the weekend. The RSI is now at 26.80%. With a ROC of .5 to 1 there is room to go down. This isn’t the type of market that will “test” areas. It will just be a grinder until help arrives. The focus is on the 2023 trendline which comes in at 504.50. The line is almost 6 months old. It is important.
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Lumber & Wood Pulp Options
About the Leonard Report:
The Leonard Lumber Report is a column that focuses on the lumber futures market’s highs and lows and everything else in between. Our very own, Brian Leonard, risk analyst, will provide weekly commentary on the industry’s wood product sectors.