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Signs Of Lumber Bubble Bursting Offer Relief To Developers

The price of lumber, which has ballooned to unprecedented levels in recent months, has started to drop. From a record of $1,711.20 per thousand board feet in early May, lumber futures are now below $1K per thousand board feet for delivery in July. That is the lowest level for futures since March.


The spot price of lumber is also dropping, according to pricing service Random Lengths, as reported by The Wall Street Journal. The service's framing composite index fell $122 to $1,324 as of Friday, the most it has ever fallen in a week.

As prices drop, builders that had been holding onto stocks of wood are selling, putting further downward pressure on prices and perhaps contributing to a bubble popping, though for now, lumber prices are still relatively high. The 2015-2019 average futures price for 1,000 board feet was never more than $400, according to Random Lengths data.

Lumber is only one building input to see sharp price increases as the coronavirus pandemic wound down in early 2021, with steel, plastics, gypsum, wallboard, insulation and cement all experiencing price spikes. Input costs for general contractors rose 19% year-over-year in April, up from the 12.4% annual increase recorded a month earlier, according to the Associated General Contractors of America.

There are hints that prices for some of those other materials might be headed downward as well. Copper prices, which reached all-time highs last month, have likewise been dropping in recent weeks, probably because the Chinese government has threatened a crackdown on speculators in the metal, The Street reports.

Steel prices have also fallen in China, though they have continued to rise in the U.S., up 10% month-over-month in May, MetalMiner reports. On the other hand, cement prices might be more permanently elevated as demand worldwide is driven by large development projects. Global demand for cement is expected to rise 2.9% per year until 2025 at least, according to a new Freedonia Group analysis.