TOKYO, Jan 12 (Reuters) - Aluminium stocks held at three major Japanese ports came to 223,600 tonnes at the end of December, rising for the first time since August, trading house Marubeni Corp (8002.T: Quote) said on Wednesday.
Aluminium stocks at the end of December climbed 13,600 tonnes, or 6.5 percent, from a month earlier, said Marubeni, which collects data from the key ports of Yokohama, Nagoya and Osaka.
"The rise in stocks is due to low shipment volumes towards the year-end when demand from users tends to fall, as well as a slight drop in overall production," an official at Marubeni said.
"All in all, the trend reflects sluggish demand," he said, adding that aluminium stocks may rise further in the next few months to the end of Japan's fiscal year in March.
Japan, which must buy nearly all the metal it needs, annually imports about 2 million tonnes of primary aluminium, widely used in products ranging from computers, planes and electronics to the food sector.
Industry officials said stocks around 10 percent of total imports represented a healthy level.
"ÿThe current level of stocks is a bit in excess. Ideally, they should be a bit lower," he said.
Japanese shipments of aluminium products rose 11.4 percent in November from a year earlier to 183,613 tonnes for the 12th straight month of year-on-year gains, helped by firm exports and demand for use in beverage cans.
Reflecting an uncertain outlook for appetite in 2011, most term premiums for primary aluminium shipments to Japan for the first quarter were agreed at $112 to $113 per tonne, down from $116 to $118 set for the fourth quarter in 2010.
Following are details of Japanese aluminium stocks, including month-on-month and year-on-year comparisons (in tonnes):
Yokohama Nagoya Osaka Total Dec 31 108,300 101,300 14,000 223,600 Nov 30 100,900 96,100 13,000 210,000 Oct 31 112,100 100,700 13,000 225,800 Sept 30 114,200 104,200 12,000 230,400 End-Dec 2009 86,700 92,600 14,000 193,300.