Potlatch's wood products segment reported an operating loss of $4.8 million for the fourth quarter 2009, including a $3 million impairment charge, compared to an operating loss of $11.4 million in fourth quarter 2008.

The Spokane, Wash.-based company said today that its wood products segment continues "to be negatively impacted by the downturn in the lumber and housing markets."

The wood products segment had an operating loss of $20.5 million in 2009 compared to an operating loss of $13.7 million in 2008.

Lumber sales volumes increased 18% in the fourth quarter 2009 over the same period of 2008, but were offset by sales prices 4% lower in quarter.

Lumber sales volumes decreased 1% and sales prices decreased 6% in the fourth quarter 2009 compared to the third quarter "due to seasonal factors," the company said in a report issued today.

During the quarter an Idaho particleboard plant was shut down twice for approximately six weeks due to lack of orders and a build-up of finished goods inventory. Also, a lumber mill in Arkansas was shut down for approximately one-and-a-half weeks during the fourth quarter due to extremely wet weather conditions that resulted in a lack of log inventory. Other mills operated at full production.

For the full year, Potlatch reported earnings from continued operations were $81.4 million, compared to $72.9 million in 2008. Net earnings for the full year, including discontinued operations were $77.3 million, compared to $52.6 million in 2008.

"Despite the poor economic conditions in 2009, we are pleased with our overall performance during the year," said Michael Covey, chairman, president and CEO of Potlatch.

"In our Wood Products segment, we had another quarter of positive cash flow," he noted.