UPDATE 2-Japan Q1 aluminium premium at $240 to $245 per tonne -sources

Fri Dec 21, 2012 1:50am EST

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* Q1 premiums down from Q4 record

* Global supply surplus seen widening in 2013 -Marubeni

* 2013 premiums seen at $200-$300/T -Marubeni

By Osamu Tsukimori

TOKYO, Dec 21 (Reuters) - Japan's aluminium premiums for January-March shipments were mostly set at $240 to $245 per tonne, down from a record in the current quarter, reflecting easing demand as the world's third largest economy slips into recession, three sources directly involved in the talks said on Friday.

Japan is Asia's biggest importer of the metal and the fee sets the benchmark for the region. Premiums are paid over the benchmark London Metal Exchange (LME) cash price to secure physical metal.

Despite the fall, premiums remain lofty. They are more than double this year's first quarter terms of $112 and down just 6 percent from a record $254 to $255 for the current quarter.

They have been inflated mainly because of large stocks locked up by banks in financing deals, and behind long queues at warehouses, which make it difficult for manufacturers to access supplies.

A fall in the fee for buyers in Japan is the first in more than a year. Demand has deteriorated in the country's domestic auto and electronics sectors, while its exports have been hit by a global growth slowdown and a territorial dispute with China.

"Some deals were set at $242 and $240," a tonne, in addition to $244, one of the sources said, on condition of anonymity. "Volume-wise, deals that settled at $245 should be fewer than others."

SUPPLY SURPLUS, HIGHER PRICES EYED IN 2013

The global aluminium market is likely to see a larger surplus of 202,000 tonnes in 2013, up more than a fifth from this year, as rapid supply growth from China, the Middle East and India are expected to continue, Japanese trading house Marubeni Corp said.

Marubeni expects term aluminium premiums, the amount Japanese buyers pay above LME cash prices, to range from $200 to $300 a tonne in 2013 and $150 to $300 in 2014, compared with the range of $112 to $255 in 2012.

Marubeni expects the LME aluminium price to rise gradually throughout 2013, with the median price rising to $2,450 per tonne in the fourth quarter from $2,100 in the first. It now stands at around $2,065.

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