U.S. housing activity and exports will continue to strengthen hardwood lumber demand. According to the NAHB/Wells Fargo Housing Market Index, stronger buyer traffic pushed builder confidence to levels not seen in more than a decade. And, consumer confidence soared in March to the highest level in more than 16 years. Construction industry employment has risen by 136,000 in the last 12 months. The limited number of property listings will remain a hurdle to faster growth, however. Year-to-date lumber exports through February were higher for every species except Alder and Beech. With the notable exceptions of upper-grade Soft Maple and White Oak—and certain low-grade items—lumber prices will be generally firm to somewhat higher over the next two months.