Paper Market Outlook — Stocks Are on the Rise
Upton believes publishers and other print buyers may have gotten too accustomed to the market conditions in 2001 through 2003. Slack demand meant paper and press time were readily available, even for rush orders, he points out.
Jones feels it's also important for printers to take a measured approach to managing paper. "We tried to stay consistent throughout the recent market volatility," he explains. "We have suppliers that we've been loyal to for a number of years and programs set up to deal with our ongoing paper demand."
According to Jones, the word "allocation" is still being bandied about, but it's really not being enforced as much at some mills as it is at others. "We haven't even heard rumblings of a price increase in the last month or so," he continues. "Of course, we could see an announcement tomorrow saying white offset is going up $2 a 100 weight, but I don't anticipate that happening."
The latest paper report from Foex Indexes Ltd. backs up these assessments. It notes that, in the U.S., 2004 shipment numbers were above 2003 totals in all main grades except for newsprint, but this growth slowed toward the end of the year. Price increases momentum is easing off in North America after several increases during 2004, the report concludes.
A New Roll for the Web
A variety of forces have combined to dramatically reshape the North American paper market in recent years. One that is still evolving and yet to have its full impact is the Internet.
Development of the papiNet global transaction standard for the paper and forest supply chain will likely be the most far-reaching—although largely transparent—application of this information conduit. Online marketplaces for buying and selling excess, overstocked and discontinued paper are a more interactive and visible realization of the technology's potential. They're also a timely innovation given the recent market conditions.