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Pain of Housing Downturn Felt in the U.S. Lumber Industry

The lumber industry will likely be saving a few more trees in 2007, according to a forecast by the Western Wood Products Association (WWPA). After four consecutive years of record lumber consumption, demand for lumber fell in 2006 and is expected to slow further during 2007, the association said. Residential construction is the largest market for lumber, accounting for more than 40 percent of the lumber used each year.
Slower housing markets are the key reason driving lumber demand declines. New housing starts are expected to be down nearly 9 percent in 2006, and fall another 10 percent to 1.69 million in 2007, according to the association's forecast. The expected decrease in housing construction is forecast to reduce lumber demand in 2006 by 3.2 percent to 61.9 billion board feet, compared to the all-time high of 63.9 billion board feet recorded in 2005. The slide in demand will continue into 2007, with WWPA forecasting total lumber use at 57.1 billion board feet, a decrease of 7.2 percent. The volume of lumber used in repair/remodeling is anticipated to decrease as well, though not as deeply. WWPA anticipates repair/remodeling use of lumber to fall 2.6 percent in 2006 and nearly 6 percent in 2007. “While home prices will still fall in some areas, we think that housing starts and home sales are nearing a sustainable rate,� said Kevin Binam, the association's chief economist. “But construction is going to be lower than we've seen in the past few years and that will mean less demand for lumber.� The Western Wood Products Association represents lumber manufacturers in the 12 Western states and Alaska.

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