Our big news this month is the opening of our largest branch yet. We moved our Atlanta area branch from Tucker to Lithonia. We upgraded from 16,000 SF to 39,000 SF and we now have four overhead cranes to handle rebar more effectively. Our new rebar shop is totally indoors now. We also are stocking tilt up braces in Lithonia. If you are an Atlanta area customer or supplier, stop by to see it.
We also are almost three months into our acquisition in Jacksonville FL. It is going better than expected. We’ve been renting their concrete forms to our legacy customers and they’ve been selling fabricated rebar to their customers from some of our other fabrication shops until we open our new shop in Jacksonville.
With the holiday season and recent inclement weather, the construction industry was able to take a breath and find a short-term reprieve from the breakneck pace we experienced throughout 2021. The short reprieve was welcome, but only temporary, as once again things begin to kick back into high gear. Pricing on most commodity items followed the same pattern, with the main exception being lumber.
See below for pricing trends on lumber and the other main products we distribute.
Lumber has continued its rapid three month climb that really picked up speed in early November 2021. Pricing has almost tripled in this short time period, increasing from November’s average of $540 per 1000 board feet to January’s $1,230 per 1000 board ft., a 128% increase. Extremely high demand and supply chain issues are once again severely impacting pricing. Some traders are anticipating a peak within the next few weeks, but delivery of finished goods continues to run a week or more behind originally estimated schedules. Lead times have stretched back out to almost a month depending on species and dimension.
Rebar has remained constant since the increase pushed through in early December. Pricing has remained stable due to the balance of metal scrap pricing versus demand over this period. Even though scrap prices have posted down for two consecutive months, demand remains at a level high enough for the mills to not follow the scrap drop. Expectation is for pricing to remain constant for the next month or so.
Wire mesh saw a slight two percent increase to start the new year. This increase was lower than anticipated, but the scrap price drop impacted this as well. Inventory on wire rod used to manufacture the finished mesh continues to be tight and lead times remain in excess of two months from time of purchase order. Demand remains high and the long lead times are expected to last well into 2022.
Poly sheeting has also remained flat over the past month with pricing per load only varying a few dollars up or down per roll depending on manufacturer and required lead time. Standard lead times are running three to four weeks for mixed size loads and sometimes quicker on straight single size loads. Winter always has a chance to bring volatility and supply chain disruption to the poly market. Most of the country’s resins used in manufacturing poly sheeting are produced in Texas, and if winter weather in Texas slows down resin production, the supply chain can be severely impacted.
The monthly and year-over-year (y/y) increase in construction input costs slowed in December but still exceeded the rise in contractors’ bid prices, according to BLS data posted on January 13. The producer price index (PPI) for material and service inputs to new nonresidential construction climbed 0.5% for the month (down from 0.9% in November) and 18% for all of 2021. The PPI for new nonresidential building construction—a measure of the price that contractors say they would bid to build a fixed set of buildings—increased 0.3% for the month and 13% y/y, the most in the series’ 12-year history. Several input PPIs declined in December or increased less than in recent months but still rose sharply for the year. AGC posted tables and graphs of construction PPIs.
Click here for the latest update on the construction economy from Ken Simonson, the chief economist of the AGC.