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

Customer Orders

Goldman and LME restrained about 1.5 million tons of aluminum in LME Detroit warehousing, “through an interconnected series of agreements in unreasonable restraint of trade,” causing delays of as long as 16 months between customer orders and corresponding deliveries, Gwinn, Michigan-based Superior alleged.

Metal premiums are added to exchange benchmarks and cover a purchase of specific quality of metal in a particular location, reflecting local supply and demand on the physical market, according to Macquarie Group Ltd. in London. The European aluminum premium accounts for 13% of the total cost of buying metal, compared with 7.6% three years ago, according to Bloomberg calculations based on Metal Bulletin data. Companies don’t usually protect against changes in premiums through hedging.

MillerCoors Argument

Global aluminum costs were inflated by $3 billion in the past year through unfair rules that allow warehouse owners to slow deliveries, Tim Weiner, a global risk manager at Chicago- based brewer MillerCoors, said in written testimony before his appearance July 23 at a U.S. Senate hearing. U.S. financial regulators told a Senate hearing July 30 they will boost scrutiny of banks’ commodities holdings and the Federal Reserve said last month it will review a decade-old decision to let them trade raw materials. The U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission sent a letter to companies asking them not to destroy documents relating to warehousing since January 2010, according to a copy of the letter obtained by Bloomberg.

Premiums had climbed to a record as wait times for aluminum at LME-approved warehouses extended to more than a year. Supply was further limited because as much as 80% of LME stockpiles are tied to financing transactions and not immediately available, Societe Generale SA estimates. Warehouse operators offered incentives to attract metal into their sheds, leaving consumers to compete for metal.

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