SMU Data and Models

Hot Rolled Lead Times See Biggest Decline Since January 2022

Written by Becca Moczygemba

Steel mill lead times have encountered some of the biggest two-week declines we’ve seen for some time, to the lowest levels we’ve seen since mid-March, according to SMU’s latest steel market survey data. 

Hot rolled in particular saw the steepest two-week decline since late January 2022, when lead times dropped by 0.86 weeks. This week, SMU’s hot rolled lead times are 3 to 7 weeks with an average of 5.1 weeks. The average slipped from 5.8 weeks at the previous market check two weeks ago.  

Cold rolled lead times saw one of the biggest two-week declines since late September 2022, when they dropped by 0.69 weeks. This week, CR lead times range from 5 to 9 weeks, with an average of 6.6 weeks, down from 7.2 two weeks ago.

Galvanized lead times trended slightly upward compared to two weeks ago. This week they ranged from 4.5 to 9 weeks, with an average of 6.7 weeks, slightly up from 6.5 at the last check.

The previous market check two weeks ago highlighted the biggest two-week decline since January for Galvalume. This week, Galvalume lead times are a bit tighter, ranging from 7 to 7.5 weeks, with an average lead time of 7.1 weeks. 

Plate lead times dropped by 1.03 weeks in mid-March, and this week’s dip of 0.42 is the biggest since then. Plate lead times are between 5 and 9 weeks, with an average of 6.5 weeks. The average two weeks ago was 6.92 weeks.

0525LeadTimes Fig1.1

When asked about the future direction of lead times, about 59% of survey respondents reported they expect lead times to be flat into July. Only 7% percent think lead times will extend, and the other 33% think they will contract. Premium members can view a longer history of this data series and others in our market trends report.

Here are comments from a few respondents:

“I think they will reach their lowest point over the next two weeks.”

“They have already contracted.”

“In June, as customers reengage buying, lead times will extend.”

“In two months, I feel domestic mills will have adjusted to meet foreign pricing, and, therefore, lead times will tighten just a bit, and then remain flat.”

0525LeadTimes Fig2.2

Looking at lead times on a three-month moving average (3MMA) basis can smooth out the variability of our twice monthly readings. As a 3MMA, lead times for all products have been relatively flat or down over the past month. The latest 3MMA lead time for hot rolled dropped 0.1 weeks to 6.1 weeks. Cold rolled also dropped by 0.1 weeks to 7.4 weeks. Galvanized lead times remain flat at 7.3 weeks, while Galvalume lead times were down 0.2 weeks to 7.7 weeks. Plate lead times were up 0.1 weeks to 6.4 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. 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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