LEONARD LUMBER REPORT: After a six-week run, the cash market shows signs of fatigue

LEONARD LUMBER REPORT: After a six-week run, the cash market shows signs of fatigue

  • After a six-week run, the cash market shows signs of fatigue.
  • The futures market had a $52 range from high to low, confirming that the volatility is returning.
  • Reports from the field are of home builders putting on the full-court press for yearend while data shows a potential future slowdown.


At six weeks, this cash round has been longer than most. Inventory management plans are causing small bottlenecks every few months. If this mechanism stays in place, it may be a while before the cash market recovers. The catalysis of these last two buys in January and June was from a supply issue and commodity funds covering. Once that energy is gone, the market tends to settle back down. The cash market back below breakeven isn’t sustainable but the fact.

Economists are talking about a potential period of commodity deflation coming. Historically, the lumber commodity enters that disinflationary period earlier than most other commodities. It also exits earlier. Hovering under breakeven for as long as it has, lumber is probably in the middle of the cycle.


Lumber is not a volatile trade. The normal ranges are small and defined. That all changed when covid hit. This typically controlled commodity was hit with numerous issues. That created many wide swings, and volatility went off the charts. It took the last 14 months of sideways trading to bring the volatility down and, as usual, took it to record lows. That is why last week’s $52 move is essential. Today we look at it as bringing vol back to historic levels. If the swings continue and get more comprehensive, it should be a red flag to the part of this industry that is affected most by higher prices.


“Heat is not a factor this year.” There has been an uptick in the building since spring that hasn’t let up. The typical heat-caused slowdowns have not come into play. The push for completions is on. The starts number has always been a lagging indicator, but this time we could see a more dramatic drop going into the fall because of today’s rapid pace. We are entering a time of year when production capacity moves back up. It could be a struggle for the industry to digest more wood and less demand.

*This industry has yet to experience the effects of the higher rates. We could have already landed, but the industry is trading as if there is more negative to come. The lack of any honest follow-through is an industry on the defensive.


Today the focal technical points are the 200- and 100-day moving averages. The 200 sits at 557.40, and the 100 sits at 540.30. This market is in a downtrend which highlights the 100-day average. I will look for some added momentum if the market closes under it. A few weeks back, the call was if the market rallied through the $600 mark, it would gain upside momentum. The features of the trade are the same. The close on Friday was a bit friendly, so it may pay to practice patience before committing to the short side

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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.


Brian Leonard

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