Aluminum costs falling as U.S. lawmakers focus on long waits

The rates to obtain aluminum tumbled the most in 20 months in Europe last month and retreated from a record in the U.S. as lawmakers and regulators scrutinize long lines for metal that buyers say raised their overheads.

The surcharge added to the price of aluminum for immediate delivery on the London Metal Exchange slid 7% in Europe, the most since November 2011, according to Metal Bulletin data. U.S. costs dropped as much as 23% from a record in June, Harbor Intelligence in Austin, Texas, says. Premiums may fall 25% more by year-end at this pace after the LME submitted plans to ease a backlog of metal, Barclays Plc estimates.

Consumers led by brewer MillerCoors LLC told a U.S. Senate hearing last month that banks and other warehouse owners are using “unfair” LME rules to slow deliveries. The LME, which oversees more than 700 warehouses worldwide, proposed rules July 1 to cut waiting times. The LME and Goldman Sachs Group Inc., which owns exchange-approved warehouses, are restraining aluminum supplies and driving up prices in violation of federal antitrust law, according to a lawsuit filed in Detroit Aug. 1.

“The fall in physical premiums for aluminum over the past two weeks is, in our view, only the beginning of this process,” Peter Richardson, an analyst at Morgan Stanley in London, said in a report e-mailed today.

Rotterdam Rates

The aluminum premium was $250 to $275 a metric ton in Rotterdam last week, compared with $270 to $295 in June, London- based researcher CRU said. The premium aluminum buyers are expected to pay in the U.S. Midwest fell to 10 cents to 11.7 cents a pound from a record 12 cents to 13 cents a pound in June, Harbor Intelligence said.

The LME proposed obliging warehouses where withdrawals take more than 100 days to deliver out more metal than they take in. That spurred warehouse companies to curb incentives because they’re less certain about future income in view of potential changes to delivery rules, CRU said. Detroit, New Orleans, the Dutch port of Vlissingen, the Belgian city of Antwerp and Malaysia’s Johor have waits for metal exceeding 100 days, according to Barclays.

Hong Kong Exchanges & Clearing Ltd., the owner of the LME, and New York-based Goldman said separately that the suit is without merit and they will contest it “vigorously.”

Goldman’s Metro International Trade Services LLC owns the most LME-approved warehouses in Detroit, the world’s second- largest aluminum repository. The lawsuit against the bank and the LME was by Superior Extrusion Inc., which is seeking class- action status.

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