SMU Data and Models

Sheet and Plate Lead Times Continue To Trend Upward

Written by Becca Moczygemba

Steel mill lead times are following prices as they continue to trend upward, according to SMU’s latest market survey.

SMU’s hot-rolled lead time is approximately six weeks, up from 5.4 weeks in our last market check two weeks ago.

The result is notable because it marks a second consecutive and significant gain. Recall that lead times had been steady just below five weeks in January before rising sharply in February, according to our pricing tool.

Cold-rolled lead times increased to 7.3 weeks from six weeks previously, the longest lead time for CR since 7.6 weeks in April 2022. Galvanized inched up to seven weeks from 6.7 weeks two weeks ago.

Galvalume lead times were eight weeks on average, the same as the first week of 2023, and up from 7.5 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 0.4 weeks to 5.6 weeks from 5.2 weeks in the third week of February.

0302 Lead Times Fig1

When asked about the future direction of lead times, 68% of survey respondents reported they expect lead times to be relatively flat into May. About 14% percent think lead times will extend, while approximately 18% 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 slowly increased over the past month. The latest 3MMA lead time for hot rolled inched up 0.3 weeks to 5.2 weeks. Cold-rolled saw a 0.2-week increase, moving up to 6.7 weeks. Galvanized lead times ticked up to 6.5 weeks from 6.3 weeks, while Galvalume lead times increased 0.4 weeks to 7.1 weeks. Plate lead times rose 0.2 weeks to 5.3 weeks.

0302 Lead Times 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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