Service Centers

Sheet Mill Lead Times See First Significant Gains Since Early Jan

Written by Becca Moczygemba

Steel mill lead times, following recent pricing moves, have pushed upwards, according to SMU’s latest market survey.

SMU’s hot-rolled lead time is approximately 5.4 weeks, up from 4.9 weeks at our last check of the market two weeks ago.

The result is notable because lead times have been just below five weeks since the beginning of the year, according to our pricing tool.

Cold-rolled lead times increased to 7 weeks from 6.6,weeks, the longest lead time since April 2022 when it stood at 7.6 weeks. Galvanized inched up to 6.7 weeks from 6.4 weeks two weeks ago.

Galvalume lead times were 7.5 weeks on average, the same as the first week of 2023, and up from 6.4 weeks at the last market check. Note that Galvalume figures can be volatile due to the limited size of that market and our smaller sample size.

Plate lead times rose by 0.2 weeks from 5 weeks in the first week of February vs. two weeks earlier.

0215 LeadTimes Fig1

When asked about the future direction of lead times, 61% of survey respondents reported they expect lead times to be relatively flat into April. About 23% percent think lead times will extend, while approximately 16% think they will contract. Premium members can view a longer history of this data series and others by exploring the market trends report.

Looking at lead times on a three-month moving average (3MMA) basis can smooth out the variability in the biweekly readings. As a 3MMA, lead times for all products have been generally stable over the past month. The latest 3MMA lead time for hot rolled inched up 0.3 weeks to 4.9 weeks. Cold-rolled also saw a 0.3-week increase, moving up to 6.5 weeks. Galvanized lead times ticked up to 6.3 weeks from 6.1 weeks, while Galvalume lead times increased 0.3 weeks to 6.8 weeks. Plate lead times rose only 0.1 week.

0215 LeadTimes Fig2

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. SMU measures lead times as the time it takes from when an order is placed with the mill to when the order is processed and ready for shipping, not including delivery time to the buyer. 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. To see an interactive history of our Steel Mill Lead Times data, visit our website here.

By Becca Moczygemba, 

Becca Moczygemba

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