North American softwood lumber prices will move sky high in the next two to four years, an industry analyst has predicted.

Economist Daryle Swetlishoff told the Global Wood Products Industry & Markets Conference in Vancouver that a range of factors worldwide would push prices to record levels, according to industry newsletter Random Lengths.

A sustained surge in demand from China, a rebound in the US housing market and reduced timber availability in Canada because of the pine beetle infestation would drive a bull market.

Other speakers supported his assessment and one panel predicted western spruce-pine-fir No 2 & Btr 2×4 would double in price to as much as US$550 by 2015.

Although some traders viewed the predictions with scepticism, the concept was received as a welcome break from downtrodden market reports.

They noted a booming Chinese market coupled with increased domestic logging restrictions that would create a wood fibre deficit of 150 million m³ by 2015. US housing starts were expected to rebound next year and reach 1 million by 2013, and one estimate indicated up to 75% of mature pine trees in British Columbia’s interior are dead.