NEW YORK Lead times for
copper flat-rolled products have extended in the first few
weeks of the year, service center sources told
It is the first time that lead
times for light- and intermediate-gauge products have
lengthened since 2010, AMM has been told.
"Weve seen them jump out.
For most of the fourth quarter, lead times were between five
and six weeks. But now, for certain light- and
intermediate-gauge products, theyre out to April," one
service center source said.
"Our supply side seems to be
enjoying a rebound in business based on the lead times," a
second service center source said. "In the fourth quarter, lead
times were between three and five weeks, but now, for
flat-rolled products in general, theyre out to eight
Improving demand in the U.S.
construction sector and strong forecasts from the automotive
sector are likely reasons for the extended mill lead times,
sources said (
amm.com, Jan. 24). Light- and intermediate-gauge
copper is used in residential and commercial lighting
connectors, as well as automotive lighting applications.
Its a positive sign for
the copper industry, which has suffered from weak demand
following the 2008 financial crisis.
"Thats typically a good
omen for the entire pipeline. If the mills are busy, that means
there is some demand out there," the second service center
"When major mills do this, it
tells me theyve gotten orders, which is positive," the
first service center source said.
In addition to construction and
automotive, the sharp uptick in gun sales at the end of
2012which would boost demand for brasscould be a
factor in extending lead times, service center sources
Firearm background checks
increased 25 percent to more than 2 million in November from
1.6 million in October, the highest monthly figure in more than
14 years, according to statistics from the National Instant
Criminal Background Check System (NICS), a division of the
Federal Bureau of Investigation.
While the data does not
represent the number of gun sales, it shows the domestic
firearms business is unquestionably picking up, said the first
service center source, who estimated that ammunition companies
purchase between 20 million and 30 million pounds of brass
"Id be foolish to discount
this jump in lead times, to say it had nothing to do with
ammunition sales," the first service center source said. "New
records are being set with gun sales. (More people) are
practicing shooting (which means) more people are buying
Long lead times could be short
lived, however. "Im concerned these increasing lead times
are more seasonal. (Mills) could be getting building components
ready for spring, and then we (may) see a retraction or
shortening of lead times as we march into spring," the first
service center source said.
Still, this year likely will be
more active than in recent memory.
Although a third service center
source said that his lead times are still around four weeks, he
anticipates business will pick up soon. "Copper is in a lot of
things. As long as you keep your nose to the grindstone,
youll be fine," he said.