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Explaining the disconnect between lumber and timber prices

Gwen Busby
Head of Natural Capital Research and Strategy, Nuveen
Clark Binkley
Managing Director, International Forestry Investment Advisors
Timber logs

Pundits are wondering “Lumber prices are soaring. Why are timber owners miserable?”1 They declare “Lumber prices soar, but logs are still dirt cheap”2 Indeed, lumber prices reached record highs at levels perhaps four times what were previously thought to be “trend” prices. Many are left wondering: (1) why are lumber prices so high? And (2) why haven’t timber prices, especially in the U.S. South, followed lumber prices up? In this research note we provide some comments on the former and take a deeper dive to answer the latter.

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1 WSJ, 24 February 2021

2 Bloomberg, 20 April 2021


Binkley, C.S. 1994. Long-run timber supply: price elasticity, inventory elasticity and the capital:output ratio. Nat. Res. Modelling. 7:163-181.
Cardellichio, P.A. and C.S. Binkley. 1988. The effects of overrun improvements on stumpage price inflation. Can. J. For. Res. 18:981-985.
Sendak, P. E. 1991. Timber sale value as a function of timber sale characteristics and the number of bidders. USDA Forest Service Research Paper NE 657.
Hartman, Richard. 1976. The harvesting decision when a standing forest has value. Economic Inquiry 14(1): 52-58.
Hyde, W.J. 1980. Timber supply, land allocation and economic efficiency. (Resources for the Future Press: New York)
Johansson, P.O and Lofgren, K. G. 1985. The economics of forestry and natural resources. (Blackwell: London)
Johnson, R. M. 1979. Oral auction versus sealed-bids: an empirical investigation. Natural Resources Journal. 19(April):315-336
McAfee, R. P.; McMillan, J. 1987. Auctions and bidding. Journal of Economic Literature. 25:699-738.
van Kooten, G.C., C.S. Binkley and G. Delcourt. 1995. Effect of carbon taxes and subsidies on optimal forest rotation age and supply of carbon services. Am. J. of Agric. Econ. 77 (May): 365-774.

The views and opinions expressed are for informational and educational purposes only as of the date of production/writing and may change without notice at any time based on numerous factors, such as market or other conditions, legal and regulatory developments, additional risks and uncertainties and may not come to pass. This material may contain “forward-looking” information that is not purely historical in nature. Such information may include, among other things, projections, forecasts, estimates of market returns, and proposed or expected portfolio composition. Any changes to assumptions that may have been made in preparing this material could have a material impact on the information presented herein by way of example. Past performance is no guarantee of future results. Investing involves risk; principal loss is possible.

A word on risk

All investments carry a certain degree of risk and there is no assurance that an investment will provide positive performance over any period of time. Investing in municipal bonds involves risks such as interest rate risk, credit risk and market risk, including the possible loss of principal. The value of the portfolio will fluctuate based on the value of the underlying securities. There are special risks associated with investments in high yield bonds, hedging activities and the potential use of leverage. Portfolios that include lower rated municipal bonds, commonly referred to as “high yield” or “junk” bonds, which are considered to be speculative, the credit and investment risk is heightened for the portfolio. Bond insurance guarantees only the payment of principal and interest on the bond when due, and not the value of the bonds themselves, which will fluctuate with the bond market and the financial success of the issuer and the insurer. No representation is made as to an insurer’s ability to meet their commitments.

Nuveen Asset Management, LLC is a registered investment adviser and an affiliate of Nuveen, LLC.

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