The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) released the Producer Price Indexes (PPI) for April. Overall, producer prices declined for a second month based on continuing declines in energy prices, but the sharp price increases for the building materials framing lumber and OSB may be nearing an end.
The PPI for finished goods declined 0.7% in April from March (seasonally adjusted) driven by a 2.5% decline in energy prices. Core prices (excluding food and energy) continued their modest pace, rising 0.1% in April. Declining food prices also contributed to the decline in overall producer prices.
The monthly PPIs for framing lumber and OSB increased from March to April, 3.2% and 6.5% respectively, but weekly price data from Random Lengths indicate that turning points during April may be the beginning of a reversal of the steep increases that have accompanied the housing market recovery. If sustained these declines should appear in the June release of the May data.
Indexing both the PPI and the Random Lengths framing lumber price to January 1995 shows that they move together closely, reflecting the same price dynamics, with the weekly data from Random Lengths showing a larger amplitude in the changes. Based on monthly prices the PPI indicates a 67% increase from the 2009 trough to April; the weekly data show a trough to April increase of 124% in lumber prices.
Price increases for OSB are even more dramatic. According to the PPI data OSB prices have increased 151% since bottoming out in the housing bust; the weekly Random Lengths data show a 206% increase.
A break in prices would be a welcome relief for builders. With house prices less than 10% above their housing bust lows, the impact of these rising input costs has presented a significant challenge for builders during the recovery.