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US spot aluminum billet premiums flat

Keywords: Tags  billet premium, aluminum, 6063, Alcoa, ABI, USW, longshoremen, labor negotiations Michael Cowden

CHICAGO — Aluminum billet premiums remained unchanged this week amid steady demand.

The "billet market is definitely getting on more solid ground as spring and summer approach," one producer said, although he added that he hadn’t seen "much change in the spot premium."

As a result, AMM has left its aluminum billet premium at 12 to 13 cents per pound.

The producer said his company has transacted three to four spot deals for January and February at between 11 and 13 cents per pound, while a second producer said his company transacted "a few million pounds" of business in January and February at 12.5 to 13 cents per pound.

"It’s funny. It’s a good start to the year. Exactly like last year, right down to the day when it started picking up," the second producer said, noting that business in the first half of 2012 was brisk before trailing off in the second half of the year.

Several producers also said their business activity increased noticeably in recent weeks, with some booked through March and filling up into April.

However, a third producer contended that the trend is somewhat deceiving because there is one fewer business day in February 2013 than in the same month last year, which was a leap year, and because there are fewer business days in March 2013 due to Easter, which last year occurred in April.

Still, he said his company had no spot availability at present. "I’ve got customers calling and wanting more, and I’m telling them ‘no’. ... I don’t want to waste their time or mine," he said.

Despite the generally positive mood, producers said they remain worried about potential market disruptions, such as a production stoppage at Alcoa Inc.’s Aluminerie de Becancour Inc. (ABI) smelter in Quebec or imports being curtailed by labor issues at U.S. ports.

Talks between the International Longshoremen’s Association and the U.S. Maritime Alliance continue in an effort to reach a new labor agreement for 15,000 container workers before the current master contract expires Feb. 6 (, Jan. 17).

Pittsburgh-based Alcoa and the United Steelworkers union have been trying to renew a labor contract covering some 900 workers at the 400,000-tonne-per-year ABI smelter since September (, Jan. 4). Representatives of both the aluminum producer and the USW told AMM earlier this week that there have been no new developments and talks are ongoing.

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