NEW YORK Lead times for certain copper flat-rolled products could tighten in the coming weeks as service centers have told AMM that orders have dampened after an uptick earlier this year.
The wait for medium-gauge copper products is between four and six weeks, but this will likely come in, service center sources said.
"We all saw Januarys activity pick up, and we were hoping that would carry on. But were seeing a bit of a retreat from that pace," one service center source told AMM. "Id say were not at Januarys pace now. Its slowed up a bit."
He attributed the slowdown to a falloff in demand from the appliances, connectors and transformers markets.
"I think lead times are going to get a little shorter (from six weeks)," a second service center source agreed. "Not by much, though."
A third service center source confirmed the four- to six-week range.
Lead times for light-gauge copper products remain three months out in some cases, though.
"Its a bit of a mixed bag. For light-gauge flat-rolled, orders are placed for June. Thats way out," the first service center source said.
A fourth service center source confirmed this trend, adding that he expects lead times for light-gauge material to stay out on the back of continued strong demand from automotive, ammunition and electrical distribution end markets.
"One of the major mills has moved their lead times out by two weeks, and we expect other domestic mills to do the same," the fourth service center source said, pegging lead times for these products at nine weeks at least.
Booming gun and ammunition sales have given brass mills a welcome boost since the start of the year (amm.com, Feb. 6), and this trend has continued into March, the fourth service center source said.
"Ive heard from both of the big mills that ammunition has really taken off, and our customers in ammunition have gone crazy," the fourth service center source said. Electrical distribution and automotive markets are also solid, two other important end-markets for light gauge material, the source added.
"Electrical distribution is still busy, and we expect that will be the case going into summer because of the devastation of the storms and weather. Theres still a lot of rebuilding effort throughout the whole eastern seaboard. And then automotive has stayed strong," the fourth service center source said.
Most copper mills are hesitant to add staff to meet this increased demand, which will keep lead times out, the source added.
"Mills are often reluctant to add a bunch of personnel, because then we enter into the summer months when there are shutdownsauto manufacturers maintenance always happens in the first two weeks of July. By the time the mills get everyone trained and up and running, theyll have to fire them. So theyll work though it the best way they can, which is (pushing out) lead times," the fourth service center source said.