SMU Data and Models

Steel Mill Lead Times: Inching Up

Written by Tim Triplett

Mill lead times for spot orders of flat rolled steel have extended slightly in the past few weeks, lending support to those who believe the market is near the bottom.

Lead times for steel delivery are a measure of demand at the mill level. The longer the lead time, the busier the mills. The busier the mills, the less likely they are to negotiate on price. At just over three and a half weeks for hot rolled, just under six weeks for cold rolled, and near six weeks for coated products, average lead times are still short by historical standards, but may be poised to lengthen.

Hot rolled lead times now average 3.66 weeks, up from 3.38 weeks in mid-January. Current lead times for hot rolled are still well below the 5.07 weeks at this time last year and about two weeks shorter than the past year’s peak of 5.73 weeks.

Cold rolled orders currently have a lead time of 5.78 weeks, up from 5.33 weeks around Jan. 15. Cold rolled lead times were at a more typical 6.93 weeks at this time last year.

Similarly, over the past two weeks, lead times for galvanized steel inched up to 6.26 weeks from 5.88 weeks in mid-January. Galvalume lead times rose to 5.83 from 5.71 weeks during the same period.

Lead times for spot orders of plate steel now average 6.00 weeks, up from 5.93 weeks in SMU’s last poll. Plate lead times have normalized considerably from the nearly eight weeks customers had to wait for delivery for much of last year.

Note: These lead times are based on the average from manufacturers and steel service centers who participated in this week’s SMU market trends analysis. Our lead times do not predict what any individual may get from any specific mill supplier. Look to your mill rep for actual lead times. Our lead times are meant only to identify trends and changes in the marketplace. To see an interactive history of our Steel Mill Lead Times data, visit our website here.

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