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Odd Lots

It’s Short Squeezes All the Way Down

Turns out one supply bottleneck is an opportunity, but too many of them is an obstacle

Softwood is unloaded at Murray Brothers Lumber Company woodlot in Madawaska, Ontario on April 25, 2017.
Photographer: Sean Kilpatrick/CP

One of the things we’re learning over the past year is the vulnerability of global supply chains.

There’ve been supply bottlenecks in lumber, semiconductors, shipping capacity and even labor, after Covid-19 sparked a dramatic underestimate in how much of these products and services would be needed. No one thought a global pandemic would coincide with a boom in consumer goods and a quick economic recovery, and so no one prepared for that by increasing capacity. Underinvestment is now sparking higher prices for sought-after goods, with lumber being the most notable example. Joe’s described this dynamic as a short squeeze in the real economy.

But what happens when short squeezes meet other short squeezes? Resolute Forest Products is one of the first sawmills to report this earnings season and it should have unveiled bumper revenue with lumber prices up 85% this year alone. Instead, the company reported earnings-per-share that came in below analyst expectations. Why? 

It seems the supply shortage in wood bumped into a supply shortage in transport. From the statement:

For more on lumber, check out our Odd Lots episode on why prices just keep going up.