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Commodity Storage Rates to Rise Again

Paul Ausick

Beginning April 1, the cost to store commodities like aluminum and copper in London Metal Exchange (LME) bonded warehouses will rise at average of 3% and transportation charges out of the warehouses will rise about 2%. Both increases are significantly lower than the rate hikes imposed in April 2013 when storage rates rose about 7% and transportation rose 8%.

The smaller increases are part of an effort by warehouse owners to launch a charm offensive against charges that they have manipulated the flow of commodities out of their warehouses in a move to prop up prices. Goldman Sachs Group Inc. (GS), which owns Detroit-based storage operator Metro International, has said it will raise its storage rate for aluminum from $0.48 per metric ton (tonne) per day to as much as $0.51 per tonne per day. Metro's transport charge remains unchanged at $38.95 a tonne.

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The warehouses have been getting heat for more than two years for long delays in shipping aluminum to buyers. The Coca-Cola Co. (KO) filed a complaint with the LME in 2011 alleging that Metro brought aluminum into its warehouses and then refused to let the stuff leave, which caused delays in delivery, higher storage charges and higher prices for aluminum. Coke claimed that Goldman/Metro paid cash incentives to producers like Alcoa Inc. (AA) and Rio Tinto PLC (RIO) to store aluminum in Metro's warehouses during the 2008 and 2009 recession.

The issue burbled around until this past July, when Coke and MillerCoors again complained. Goldman agreed to swap metal it held in its Metro warehouses for spot shipments. The bank wants to head off stricter rules on its trading activities and a possible end to its ability to hold and trade the physical commodities. The small rate increases coming in April are just another part of the warehouse owners' strategy to play nice long enough to get through a regulatory review with minimum damage to their business. The strategy is very likely to be successful.

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