Copper Premium Drops as Dominant Stockpile Holding Disappears

The premium investors pay to borrow copper for next-day delivery fell from the highest in almost three months after a dominant position in London Metal Exchange- monitored stockpiles disappeared.

The fee to borrow copper for next-day delivery, or the tom- next spread, was at a premium of $4 a metric ton by 11:33 a.m. in London, down from $6 yesterday, data from the bourse show. There was a discount of $6 as recently as March 10. A higher fee usually signals tighter supply.

Dominant positions, is “helping to tighten up the spreads,” said Robin Bhar, an analyst at Credit Agricole SA’s investment-banking unit in London. “We’ll probably see some of those spreads easing again, as we saw last week.”

Two companies each held as much as 39 percent of copper stockpiles as of March 14, the LME said in a report today. That compares with one unidentified party holding 50 percent to 79 percent on March 11, bourse data show. Investors must show how they will settle positions by the third Wednesday of the month, which occurs today. That may force them to borrow commodities.

“Tom-next may simply be more active because of the huge upheavals markets continue to experience in the last 24 to 48 hours,” Bhar said.

Copper tom-next expanded after the aluminum spread rose to a premium of as high as $20 before closing at a 42 cent discount yesterday, said Andrew Silver, a Natixis Commodity Markets Ltd. trader in London. Aluminum tom-next was last at a 20 cent discount.

Dominant Position

A dominant position holder is anyone owning at least 50 percent of LME-registered stockpiles. One party owned more than half of copper stockpiles between Nov. 24 and Jan. 14, and for about a month from Nov. 18, 2009, according to exchange data.

Dominant positions also exist in other LME metals, bourse data show. One unidentified firm holds more than 90 percent of aluminum alloy stockpiles and one controls 50 percent to 79 percent of nickel inventory. In tin and lead, one company has 40 percent to 49 percent of the metal.

“You would expect to see those in the run-up, but I would expect these to vanish as we move beyond Wednesday,” Bhar said. Spreads tightening after previously easing too much in reaction to the earthquake and nuclear disaster in Japan, he added.

To contact the reporter on this story: Maria Kolesnikova in Moscow at mkolesnikova@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Claudia Carpenter at ccarpenter@bloomberg.net.

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