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Visualizing the Recent Explosion in Lumber Prices

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Lumber Prices Explosion

Visualizing the Recent Explosion in Lumber Prices

Lumber is an important commodity used in construction, and refers to wood that has been processed into beams or planks.

Fluctuations in its price, which is typically quoted in USD/1,000 board feet (bd ft), can significantly affect the housing industry and in turn, influence the broader U.S. economy.

To understand the impact that lumber prices can have, we’ve visualized the number of homes that can be built with $50,000 worth of lumber, one year apart.

A Story of Supply and Demand

Before discussing the infographic above, it’s important to understand the market’s current environment.

In just one year, the price of lumber has increased 377%—reaching a record high of $1,635 per 1,000 bd ft. For context, lumber has historically fluctuated between $200 to $400.

To understand what’s driving lumber prices to new heights, let’s look at two economic elements: supply and demand.

Shortened Supply

U.S. lumber supplies came under pressure in April 2017, when the Trump administration raised tariffs on Canadian lumber. Since then, lumber imports have fallen and prices have experienced significant volatility.

After a brief stint above $600 in April 2018, lumber quickly tumbled down to sub $250 levels, causing a number of sawmills to shut down. The resulting decreases in production capacity (supply) were estimated to be around 3 billion board feet.

Once COVID-19 emerged, labor shortages cut production even further, making the lumber market incredibly sensitive to demand shocks. The U.S. government has since reduced its tariffs on Canadian lumber, but these measures appear to be an example of too little, too late.

Pent-up Demand

Against expectations, COVID-19 has led to a significant boom in housing markets, greatly increasing the need for lumber.

Lockdowns in early 2020 delayed many home purchases until later in the year, while increased savings rates during the pandemic meant Americans had more cash on hand. The demand for homes was further amplified by record-low mortgage rates across the country.

Existing homeowners needed lumber too, as many Americans suddenly found themselves requiring upgrades and renovations to accommodate their new stay-at-home lifestyles.

How Many Homes Can You Build With $50K of Lumber?

To see how burgeoning lumber prices are impacting the U.S. housing market, we’ve calculated the number of single family homes that could be built with $50,000 worth of lumber. First, we established the following parameters:

  • Lumber requirements: 6.3 board feet (bd ft) per square foot (sq ft)
  • Median single family house size: 2,301 sq ft
  • Total lumber required per single family house: 14,496 bd ft

Based on these parameters, here’s how many single family homes can be built with $50,000 worth of lumber:

Date*Lumber PriceTotal Lumber PurchasedTotal Homes Built
2021-05-05$1,635 per 1,000 bd ft30,581 bd ft2.11
2020-05-04$343 per 1,000 bd ft145,773 bd ft10.05
2015-05-01$234 per 1,000 bd ft213,675 bd ft14.74
2010-05-01$270 per 1,000 bd ft185,185 bd ft12.77

*Exact matching dates were not available for past years.
Source: Insider

As lumber prices continue to set record highs, the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) has reported that the cost to build a single family home has increased by $36,000. Most of this cost can be passed down to the consumer, but extremely tight supplies mean homebuilders are unable to start more projects.

The Clock is Ticking

Despite their best efforts to increase output, it’s likely that sawmills across the U.S. will continue playing catch-up in 2021.

“There was a great fear among sawmills to prepare for a downturn. When home buying surged, they could not open up capacity quickly enough.”
– Lawrence Yun, National Association of Realtors

Analysts are now warning that lumber prices could reach a flashpoint, where affordability becomes so limited that demand suddenly falls off. This has led the NAHB to ask the Biden administration for a temporary pause on Canadian lumber tariffs, which currently sit at 9%.

U.S. tariffs on Canadian lumber were first introduced in 1982, and represent one of the longest lasting trade wars between the two nations. The U.S. is currently appealing a World Trade Organization (WTO) ruling that states its 2017 tariff hike was a breach of global trading rules.

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Ranked: Top 10 Single-Day Market Cap Gains

Nvidia broke the record for the largest single-day market cap gains after adding nearly $250B on Feb. 22, 2024.

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The 10 Biggest Single-Day Market Cap Gains

This was originally posted on our Voronoi app. Download the app for free on iOS or Android and discover incredible data-driven charts from a variety of trusted sources.

Since the COVID-19 pandemic, U.S. tech stocks have led in terms of market cap gains, sometimes boosting their valuations by hundreds of billions of dollars in a single day.

In this graphic, we’ve ranked the largest single-day gains ever recorded, using data from Bloomberg.

Top 10 List

The top 10 list includes just 5 companies, and all are based in the U.S.

RankDateCompanySingle-day
Market Cap Gain
(USD billions)
1Feb 22, 2024NVIDIA$247.0
2Feb 2, 2024Meta$196.8
3Nov 10, 2022Apple$190.9
4Feb 4, 2022Amazon$190.8
5May 25, 2023NVIDIA$184.1
6Jan 28, 2022Apple$178.9
7Jul 31, 2020Apple$169.0
8Oct 28, 2022Apple$150.5
9Mar 13, 2020Microsoft$150.4
10Apr 26, 2023Microsoft$148.3

To put these massive gains into context, consider this: As of May 2023, the average market cap of an S&P 500 company was $30.4 billion.

Meta’s $197B Record Didn’t Last Long

On Feb 2. 2024, Meta set a new record for the largest single-day gain after reporting strong quarterly earnings, as well as announcing $50B in share repurchases and its first ever dividend payment.

This record lasted only 20 days, however, as Nvidia’s massive Q4 2024 earnings beat sent it to all-time highs. The firm is now nearing a $2T valuation, firmly placing it among the world’s most valuable corporations.

More on Nvidia’s Earnings…

Nvidia reported $12.3B in net income during Q4 2024, which is 769% higher than the same quarter last year. Revenues are also up 265% from last year, largely driven by demand for its AI chips like the H100 Tensor Core GPU.

Nvidia’s earnings have seemingly shifted the AI craze into another gear, boosting other chip stocks like AMD and Super Micro Computer (SMCI) to double-digit % gains for the day (Feb 22).

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