Aluminum premiums seen slumping

Aluminum premiums are seen slumping 28 percent by 2015 in the U.S. as waits shorten at warehouses, according to Lawrence Capital Management, signaling a reprieve for brewers and soft-drink makers that use the metal in cans.

The charge in the Midwest added to supplies for immediate delivery on the London Metal Exchange is forecast to drop to 14 cents a pound by year-end, from 19.575 cents as of July 8, said Tim Hayes, a Richmond, Virginia-based principal at Lawrence Capital. Premiums jumped to a record 20.875 cents in January, Metal Bulletin data show.

Consumers including MillerCoors LLC have complained that the surcharges have risen as LME rules allowed warehouses to slow deliveries and as more metal got tied up in finance deals, which typically involve buying a commodity for nearby delivery and a forward sale to take advantage of higher prices in the future. Surging premiums have helped boost returns at producers such as Alcoa Inc., which this week reported better-than-expected second-quarter profit.

“The appetite to finance the inventory is going to lessen a bit,” said Hayes, who has been tracking the aluminum market for two decades. “When that happens, the metal comes out of the warehouses, and that will mean lower premiums.”

Aluminum for delivery in three months fell 1.5 percent to $1,910.75 a metric ton at 1:24 p.m. on the LME. The metal has gained 6.1 percent this year.

Tighter LME price spreads may deter financing transactions. Aluminum for immediate delivery on the LME settled yesterday at a $25.75-a-ton discount to the three-month contract, compared with $45 on Jan. 2. The gap was $22 on June 3, the narrowest since December 2012, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

‘Not supportive’

The narrowing spreads are “not supportive” of Midwest premiums, Harbor Aluminum Intelligence LLC said in a report. There’s “anecdotal evidence” that the popularity of financing deals has declined, Bank of America Merrill Lynch analysts including Michael Widmer said in a report June 18. Inventories ataluminum smelters have increased “visibly,” the bank said.

Goldman Sachs Group Inc.’s Metro International said last month it started complying with a new LME rule intended to reduce warehouse backlogs, even after the measure was suspended by a court. Metro’s Detroit facilities are on track to have a net load-out of 600,000 metric tons of primary aluminumthis year, equal to about 12 percent of total U.S. annual consumption, the company said.

At least 75 percent of stockpiles in LME-tracked warehouses are tied up in financing deals, Oleg Mukhamedshin, deputy chief executive officer of United Rusal Co., said last month.

The new LME warehousing rule, which was overturned by a U.K. court in March, was spurred by complaints about long waits for deliveries from warehouses. The LME is appealing the decision.

Waits for the metal at depots owned by Pacorini Metals in the Dutch city of Vlissingen lengthened to 774 days in June from 716 in May, according to the LME. The period at Metro International’s warehouses in Detroit was 681 days, up from 675 at the end of May.

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