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Forecasts vary, but there is consensus on this downward trend for at least the first half of 2008. [David Seiders] is calling for a 20% drop in total housing starts from 2007's already depressed levels, themselves a 25% drop from 2006 he notes. Given the 1.80 million starts in 2006, that means 2007 saw just 1.35 million starts, and 2008 will see just 1.09 million. Others, like the National Association of Realtors (NAR) and Moody's Economy concur, while some, like Widman's Market Watch in Vancouver are more optimistic, calling for only a 9% drop to 1.225 million. Forecasters at RISI are calling for 1.2 million starts in 08."We think the market will bottom in the third quarter, and improve through 09," predicts Paul Jannke, RISI's senior vice president of wood and timber information. "Having said that, we think 09-10 will still be weak by historic standards, and are forecasting 1.2 million units in 08, and 1.62 in 09."Pulp & Paper: A recent study from the US-based AF&.PA shows that while both global and US pulp wood demand and harvesting continues to grow at a steady rate, there are concerns. Wood for Paper: Fiber Sourcing in the Glob' al Pulp & Paper Industry is a 100-page study that among other things traces the growing demand and harvesting of roundwood from 1993 to 2004, despite marked increases in recycled paper use. Global wood fibre consumption for pulp & paper increased 18%, or a whopping 111 million cubic metres from 1993 to 2004- While consumption fell 2% in the US, it actually grew by 9% in Canada, not bad at all given doomsday scenarios portrayed by analysts back in the last recession (1990-91). Still, it's no surprise that the biggest growth areas for wood pulp consumption were China (304%), Chile (122%), and Indonesia (154%), and that the increased demand was met mostly by plantation wood. Still, none of this points to a collapse of Canadian markets for sawmill residues or pulpwood, and in the meantime, we always have...

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