NEW YORK Service centers
are reporting extending lead times for all copper and brass
products on the back of strong demand from the automotive and
housing sectors, which could encourage some buyers to turn to
Lead times for medium-gauge
copper products are anywhere from eight to 14 weeks, out from
four to six weeks previously, while lead times for certain
light-gauge material are out as long as 18 weeks from 12 weeks
previously, service centers told AMM.
Copper and brass mill Aurubis
AG, Hamburg, Germany, said in a March 20 letter that "strip
products are in higher demand, especially in the U.S."
Service centers confirmed the
trend. "We have seen lead times move out quite a bit. In
general, lead times are probably out to 12 to 14 weeks," a
source at one service center told AMM. "Strip is where
were seeing most of the demand. Automotive is still
strong and housing is holding its own."
Copper strip is used in
automotive radiators, heat-exchanger fins, roofing sheets and
"If youre ordering
something for the first time out of a prior arrangement,
youre going to wait until Aug. 2," a second service
center source said. "Were seeing (increasing) demand as
automotive and housing continues to strengthen and
"Lead times are out in the
eight- to 12-week range," a third service center source said,
although he added this is more the case for brass products
rather than copper.
Lead times for brass products
have stretched to 16 to 17 weeks in some cases from eight weeks
previously as ammunition sales rise on the back of fears of
tightening firearm controls.
Firearm background checks
totaled 2.3 million in February and 2.5 million in January,
staying above the 2-million mark every month since October
2012, according to statistics from the National Instant
Criminal Background Check System, a division of the Federal
Bureau of Investigation. While the statistics do not represent
gun sales, they show that consumer demand has undoubtedly
increased, sources said.
"There are a lot of first-time
(gun) buyers out there. People are stocking up on bullets
because theyre concerned about gun controls," the second
service center source said. "Ive heard someone at a brass
mill say President Obama is their best salesman right now."
However, "once everyone has the
bullets they want" the ordinance business could teeter off
later this year, bringing brass lead times in, he said.
"Its in a bubble right now."
Still, lead times likely will
stay out for the next few months, particularly if mills do not
"Two of the four major mills in
the U.S. are not expecting ... lead times to get back to normal
until the beginning of the summer. Theyre saying July,"
the first service center source said.
The long lead times could
encourage original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) and service
centers to turn to copper product imports to meet their
"With domestic lead times out so
far, some (OEMs) may probably find its quicker to go
overseas, which Im sure concerns the domestic producers,"
the third service center source said.
"If the customer is big enough,
they may look to get copper overseas," the second service
center said. "That could hurt the domestic industry."