No more queuing – LME embarks on warehouse review

The London Metal Exchange embarked on a formal review of its system of 600 warehouses around the world on Wednesday.

Reuters reports LME's warehousing operations "have been dogged by controversy since big banks and trading houses including Goldman Sachs and JP Morgan Chase bought warehousing operations."

LME regulations allow firms to release "a fraction of their inventories each day, leading to long queues to collect metal," but will now mandate new daily out-flow rates for nickel and tin.

LME shareholders last week approved the Hong Kong’s stock exchange operator's $2.2 billion offer marking a new era in the 135-year old exchange which handles some 80% of global trade in metals futures.

Warehouse levels of copper has been a particular point of contention with the re-emergence of a dominant market player in copper stocks that could squeeze the market just as it did in April.

Earlier in the year an "entity took control of up to 90 percent of cash contracts and inventories on the LME, facing off against Chinese market participants who were caught with short positions".

That entity was widely believed to be Swiss commodities trading giant Glencore.

LME copper stocks had fallen dramatically since the start of the year and have not improved significantly since hitting the lowest levels since the 2008 recession during the northern hemisphere spring.

The copper price is also at or near backwardation – tocks for delivery in three months are cheaper than cash copper for immediate delivery– as was the case in April.

Copper futures were trending higher on Wednesday with three-month copper trading down a fraction at $7,581 a tonne. Today's levels are well within marginal costs which for copper producers are in the $6,000 – $7,000 a tonne range or roughly $2.75 – $3.15 a pound.


1 Year Copper LME Warehouse Levels - Copper Levels Chart