TOKYO, March 19 Japanese buyers have agreed to
premiums for some April-June aluminium shipments at $248-$249
per tonne, up from the previous quarter and in line with
increased demand after the winter slowdown, sources involved
with trade talks said on Tuesday.
Other buyers are still holding out, aiming to settle at
premiums as low as $244-$245, and it remained unclear whether a
consensus on the premiums will emerge by Friday, a week after
the deadline for April shipments, three sources involved with
the talks between buyers and producers told Reuters.
Japan is Asia's biggest importer of aluminium and the
premiums for its imports, agreed each quarter, set the benchmark
for the region. Premiums are paid over London Metal Exchange
(LME) cash aluminium prices to secure physical metal on a
cost, insurance and freight basis to the main Japanese ports.
The premiums for the second quarter are up from premiums of
$240-$245 in the January-March period. Premiums
for shipments into Japan hit records of $254 to $255 a tonne in
the fourth quarter of last year, when supply was constrained as
consumers competed with investment demand for the metal, and due
to bottlenecks at warehouses monitored by the London Metal
At least one major producer is still trying to hold onto
premiums closer to the record level seen in the last quarter of
2012, according to the three sources involved in the talks.
One of the sources, on the buy side, said that the benchmark
prices are likely to be settled below $250 a tonne now that some
deals have been done below that mark.
"I think any figure above $250 is out of the question," the
Major producers say that Japanese companies were trying to
decrease inventories in January-March due to the end of the
business year, and that they would start buying more after that.
"Producers insist on higher premiums because Japanese
markets will see rising demand from now on, and because the
economy is not so bad," one of the buyers said. "Buyers on the
other hand, say port stocks are high and that we have not seen
evidence of strong demand due in part to a weaker yen."
Aluminium stocks held at three major Japanese ports were at
286,200 tonnes by the end of February, down 9.3 percent from a
month earlier, but up 8.2 percent from the same month the year
before, trading house Marubeni Corp said a week ago.