How rapidly U.S. housing construction awakens from a deep winter hibernation will determine how strongly B.C. lumber producers continue their recovery, according to new figures from the accounting and consulting firm PwC.

So far this year, lumber producers have been hurt by both the poor weather and the Port Metro Vancouver trucking dispute that effectively clogged their supply chain for 28 days in March, making it a more challenging quarter compared with their U.S. peers, according to PwC.

“Ultimately, the be-all and end-all, as we know, is the U.S. housing starts numbers, and just how robust this spring and summer is going to be,” said Jason Boyer of PwC in Vancouver.

Aggregate net profits for the western Canadian firms that have reported first-quarter results to date were down 14 percent compared with the same quarter a year ago, to $127.8 million for the first three months.

However, profits were up a surprising 19 percent to $1.28 billion US at the nine American firms included in the PwC first-quarter survey, which is a bit of turnaround from 2013 when Canadian firms were the stronger performers. PwC released the figures just ahead of its annual Global Forest & Paper Industry Conference in Vancouver Tuesday, which will bring together up to 380 top industry executives, suppliers and supporters to discuss the state of the forestry sector.

From The Vancouver Sun: http://www.vancouversun.com/business/producers+hurt+building+season+slow+start/9809957/story.html