SMU Data and Models

Steel Mill Lead Times: How Much Further Can They Extend?

Written by Tim Triplett

How much further can lead times extend? We’ll let you know. But there is no sign yet that they have peaked. Lead times for delivery of spot orders continue to stretch with hot rolled now averaging nearly seven weeks and coated steel orders nearly nine and a half weeks. Lead times are an indicator of steel demand—longer lead times mean the mills have more orders to process and are less likely to negotiate on prices.

According to Steel Market Update’s check of the market this week, current hot rolled lead times average 6.82 weeks, up from 6.62 two weeks ago. HR lead times have more than doubled since hitting 3.25 weeks at the low point in April.

Cold rolled lead times are at 8.91 weeks, up from 8.31 two weeks ago. Cold rolled lead times are nearly four weeks longer than in late April.

Galvanized lead times have jumped out to 9.39 weeks, up from 8.98 two weeks ago. That’s four weeks longer than the low point this spring. Similarly, the current average Galvalume lead time is out to 9.44 weeks.

Plate lead times had been relatively flat in September and October, but have moved out substantially in November. The average lead time for spot orders of plate is now at 6.27 weeks, up from 5.60 weeks at this time last month.

Viewed as three-month moving averages to smooth out the volatility, hot rolled lead times have continued to extend to 6.24 weeks, cold rolled 7.98 weeks, galvanized 8.45 weeks, Galvalume 9.09 weeks and plate 5.47 weeks.

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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