Industry Info

End of the Aluminum Shuffle? Chalk up a win for Big Beer

Earlier this year, the Commodity Futures Trading Commission probed several banks and warehousing firms over their commodities storage practices.

The angle that drew the most regulatory attention, likely because of complaints from manufacturing giants such as MillerCoors, was those businesses’ alleged practice of shuttling large amounts of aluminum from one facility to another in order to skirt certain commodities rules and keep prices high. Now, one of the key international regulators in the case, the London Metals Exchange, plans to change its rules in order to combat those practices, according to a report by the New York Times.

Big banks such as Goldman Sachs (NYSE: GS) and JPMorgan Chase (NYSE: JPM) were drawn into the controversy because they, along with other financial institutions, had become much more invested in physical commodities in recent years. While they have considered scaling back those investments, the Federal Reserve may make that decision for them, the Times said, as they’re allowed to own those storage facilities under a special exemption.

The LME’s new rules are expected to close a loophole that affected the price of aluminum across the United States, the Times said, by tightening regulation of how warehousing firms may move metals in and out of their facilities and, in turn, charge different rents for different forms of storage.

Foreign Policy magazine explained that these changes will have a major international effect, since aluminum prices around the world are largely tied to the LME’s prices. However, while the American beer lobby mainly drove this issue, Foreign Policy said, it’s not yet clear if those large manufacturers are completely satisfied with the LME’s impending changes, in part because prices were falling, anyway.

Source: New York Business Journal