TOKYO, July 13 -- Aluminium stocks held at three major Japanese ports came to 201,500 tonnes at the end of June, down 3,300 tonnes, or 1.6 percent, from a month earlier, trading house Marubeni Corp (8002.T: Quote) said on Monday.
Aluminium stocks were about 3 percent below levels from a year earlier, narrowing sharply from a 15.8 percent year-on-year drop in May, suggesting inventory levels were normalising.
Japan, which must buy nearly all the metal it needs, imports about 2 million tonnes of primary aluminium every year. Industry sources said stocks amounting to around 10 percent of imports is considered appropriate and not in excess.
"Aluminium stocks remain at an appropriate level, and the slight drop may be due to Japanese firms becoming cautious about boosting stocks before the end of the quarter book closing," a Marubeni official said.
Marubeni collects data from the key ports of Yokohama, Nagoya and Osaka.
The official said inventories of aluminium, which is widely used in products ranging from computers, planes and electronics to the food sector, were likely to stay near current levels for now as demand has neither risen nor fallen after a moderate recovery earlier this year.
"Buyers are taking a wait-and-see stance due to lingering worries about the economy," the official said.
Japan's shipments of the metal have been recovering from a slump that set in after the global economic crisis in late 2008 led automakers and others to slash output and cut demand.
Japanese shipments of aluminium products rose 19.6 percent in May from a year earlier to 165,638 tonnes, but were down 6.5 percent from April, data provided by the Japan Aluminium Association showed.
Although there are concerns about slowing appetite in the near term, the association said Chinese demand for primary aluminium will likely nearly triple to 43.6 million tonnes in 2020 from an estimated 15.5 million tonnes this year.
Term premiums for primary aluminium shipments to Japan for July-September were mostly agreed at $120 per tonne, down from $122-$124 per tonne in the April-June period.