Lumber prices inched over $1,000 per 1,000 board feet, according to Random Length Lumber Futures for March.
That’s double the price from just three months ago.
Starts of single-family homes, which are the most desperately needed, fell 12% compared with December, according to the U.S. Census.
A contractor frames a house under construction in Lehi, Utah, U.S., on Wednesday, Dec. 16, 2020. Private residential construction in the U.S. rose 2.7% in November. George Frey | Bloomberg | Getty Images
(Diana Olick) Consumers want more newly built, affordable homes, but builders are finding that hard to deliver, especially as prices for framing lumber spike ever higher.
Lumber prices inched above $1,000 per 1,000 board feet Thursday morning before falling back below that milestone, according to Random Length Lumber Futures for March. The high of $1,004.90 is double the price from just three months ago and a record.
If investors in stocks of home builders are wondering why they are losing money Thursday despite such upbeat new home sales data, traders of lumber futures may be smugly thinking: “Told you so.”
New home sales for Augustjumped more than expected to the highest level since February 2008. But the SPDR S&P Home builders exchange-traded fund XHB, +0.17% fell 0.5% in afternoon trade Thursday, and was down as much as 2.1% earlier in the session. The home builder-sector tracker (XHB) has lost 2.8% this week, and slumped 8.8% since it hit an 8 1/2-year high on Aug. 19.
Some chart watchers might say, that’s easy.
Tom McClellan, publisher of the investment newsletter McClellan Market Report, said his research suggests lumber prices seem to foretell, about 12 months in advance, changes in the rate of new home sales. “That is important because lumber has been falling rapidly this year, which suggests a corresponding drop in new home sales in store over the next 12 months,” McClellan wrote in a recent report to clients.
Based on that assessment, home builder stocks appear to be well overdue for a bigger selloff.
Continuous lumber futures LBX5, -0.09% declined 0.1% Thursday to the lowest level in nearly four years, as they have tumbled 34% so far this year.
What’s worse, McClellan said this week that recent data in the Commitment of Traders Report, published by the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, regarding the recent activity of commercial traders—the so-called “smart money”–suggests log prices are likely to see a further big drop over the next couple of months.
“And that is another sign of economic troubles about to befall not only the lumber market but also the rest of the economy,” McClellan said.