Boise Cascade’s wood products division returned to profit in the third quarter.

The division recorded profits before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation of US$3.4m, compared with losses of US$9.8m in the preceding quarter.

Sales of engineered wood products (including LVL and I-joists, plywood and chipboard) declined due to lower volumes and prices, while lumber sales achieved modestly higher prices.

Total divisional sales were US$163.2m, compared with US$134.4m in the second quarter and US$215.1m a year ago.

Overall group net profits were US$26.2m, compared with a US$207,640 loss a year ago. Sales were US$567.6m, down from US$705.9m.

Boise said a 32% decline in US housing starts (to an annualised rate of 500,000) in the third quarter, coupled with continuing foreclosures, high inventories of unsold homes, rising unemployment and low consumer confidence, contributed to weak demand for its products. It expects to see continuing weakness into the first half of 2010, unless some of these factors change.