Wooden furniture imports catch up, but retail sales
as confidence weakens
The volume of US imports of wooden furniture grew by
17% in May, surging ahead of 2018 year to date for the
first time this year. Imports from China, Vietnam,
Malaysia and Mexico all rose by more than 10%. Year to
date, imports from Vietnam and Malaysia are up 29% and
The results of the Smith Leonard survey of residential
furniture manufacturers and distributors for April show
business to be slowing down. New orders in April were
down 9% from April 2018 and only 36% of the
participants reported increased orders.
Year to date, new orders were 3% lower than the same
period a year ago and down in a flat first quarter.
Shipments were down 2% from April 2018, down for 55%
of participants. Year to date, shipments were up 2%, but
only 48% reported increased year to date shipments.
Backlogs remained even with March as dollar amounts of
orders and shipments were about the same.
US consumer sentiment cooled in June from an eightmonth
high on less optimism about the economic outlook
in the wake of slower global growth and trade concerns.
Households¡¯ long-term inflation expectations also
The University of Michigan¡¯s final sentiment index
dropped to 98.2, slightly above the median forecast in a
Bloomberg survey of economists, from 100 a month
The gauge of expectations decreased to 89.3 from a 15-
year high in May, while an index of current conditions
climbed to 111.9 from 110.
Most of the June slippage was concentrated in prospects
for the national economy, with the unemployment rate
expected to inch upward instead of drifting downward in
the year ahead. Interest rates were anticipated to rise by
the fewest respondents in six years and declines in
mortgage rates have begun to have a positive impact on
Imports of keruing and jatoba rose sharply in May
US imports of sawn tropical hardwood remained strong in
May rising by 5% to 24,166 cubic metres, which is 38%
higher than that of May 2018. Import volumes are ahead
of 2018 by 26% year to date. A 55% jump in imports from
Malaysia fueled most of the gain for May, as imports from
Ecuador, Brazil, Cameroon and Congo (Brazzaville) all
Imports from Ecuador are down 10% year to date, while
imports from most other trading partners are ahead by
more than 25%. Imports of keruing and jatoba both rose
by more than 66% in May, accounting for most of the
increased volume, while imports of balsa, sapelli, ipe,
mahogany, virola, teak, and acajou d¡¯Afrique all fell.
Balsa imports are 10% behind 2018 year to date, while
sapelli, keruing, acajou d¡¯Afrique, jatoba, teak and ip¨¦ are
all well ahead 2018 volume figures for the year.
Canadian imports of sawn tropical hardwoods rose by
38% in May to the highest level since June 2018. Imports
from Brazil, Cameroon and Ecuador are all up sharply
year to date, while lagging from most other countries.
Overall imports are down 9% year to date.
Imports of plywood from Vietnam double
US imports of hardwood plywood rose by 7% in May, but
the volume, at 191,701 cubic metres, remains more than
25% less than that of last May. Import volumes are down
9% year to date, with imports from China, Indonesia and
Cambodia all down more than one third for the year.
May imports from Vietnam were their strongest of the
year and are now more than doubling 2018 in volume year
to date. Imports from Russia rose by 29% in May, but still
were weaker than those of May 2018.
Cameroon¡¯s veneer shipments drop 70%
US imports of tropical hardwood veneer dropped by 23%
in May, falling from already depressed levels. Year-todate
totals remain down by 19%.
After a dismal first four months of the year, imports from
Cameroon recovered to the level seen for most months last
year, but the weak first quarter places Cameroon nearly
70% behind 2018 year to date. Imports from China fell 5%
in May and remain well below their 2018 pace.
Four straight months of increased flooring imports
US imports of hardwood flooring by volume improved for
the fourth straight month, rising by 16% in May. Imports
for the month were more than 30% higher than in May
2018 and are up 18% year to date.
Imports from China rebounded strongly from very weak
numbers in March and April, but still are down 43% year
to date. Imports from Brazil fell slightly in May but
continue to be strong as Malaysia and Brazil make up for
the depressed imports from China.
Imports of assembled flooring panels also moved up
strongly in May, rising by 32%. Imports are ahead of 2018
by 11% year to date. Imports from China rose sharply in
May, but still lag behind May 2018 totals. Imports from
Vietnam and Thailand more than doubled in May, as both
countries continue to increase their market share at
China surges back with moulding shipments
The volume of US imports of hardwood moulding rose by
24% in May, fueled chiefly by increased imports from
China. While Chinese imports are still down 48% year to
date, a 71% increase from April to May brought overall
imports up from the weak numbers of the past few months.
Despite the rise, May imports remained behind 2018 levels
and are down 27% year to date. Imports from Brazil fell
by 11% in May and are down more than 50% year to date.