CME Group offers a range of Base Metals futures contracts that result in physical delivery on maturity. The most significant of these are COMEX Aluminum and Copper futures.
Physical delivery helps to ensure that there is a convergence in pricing between the physical market and the futures market at the futures’ expiry. To be able to assess the price of a futures contract with confidence, you need to understand the process for delivery, and the nature of the metal that can be delivered.
For Copper, upon physical delivery, the seller must deliver 25,000 pounds with +/- 2% weight tolerance (24,500 to 25,500 pounds).
Metal must meet ASTM Specification B115-00 or latest revision for Grade 1 Electrolytic Copper Cathodes.
For Aluminum, upon physical delivery, the seller must deliver 25 metric tons (25MT) with +/- 2% weight tolerance (24.5 to 25.5MT).
Metal must meet P1020A in the North American and International Registration Record entitled “International Designation and Chemical Composition Limits for Unalloyed Aluminum” (revised March 2007), or latest revision for Primary Aluminum.
The acceptable shapes are Sows weighing up to 787.5 kgs, T-bars weighing up to 787.5 kgs or Ingots weighing from 9 kgs. to 26 kgs.
Metal offered for physical delivery against the futures contract must consist of a single brand of an exchange-approved smelter.
To be delivered against a futures contract, metal must be delivered to an exchange-approved warehouse. A warehouse provides secure storage of metal and inventory management to the exchange and its members. The weighmaster arranges weighing of the metal to confirm the shape and size. To become approved, a warehouse must meet the requirements of the exchange, including providing the necessary level of security.
Aluminum must be accompanied by a refiners Certificate of Analysis and Certificate of Origin in order to maintain the chain of integrity of the metal.
Once approved metal has been delivered to the warehouse, the owner of the metal can choose to register the metal with the exchange, a process often referred to as placing the metal on warrant.
A warrant is a legal document of title. At CME Group, these warrants are created and stored electronically. The warrant is created by the warehouse and is held in the exchange’s systems by the metal owner’s clearing member firm. The warrant contains all the relevant information related to the metal held in storage.
For the main Base Metal futures, the warrant is used as the means of delivery.
Futures contracts typically reference a calendar month for assessing a price reference or for effecting delivery. For each of the Copper and Aluminum futures contracts, delivery can be made on any exchange business day during the contract month.
This can be two exchange business days prior to the first day of the contract delivery month until one business day prior to the last business day of the contract month.
The seller of the futures contract starts the delivery process by providing a formal notice of intention to deliver to the clearinghouse. The seller must identify the warrant they intend to deliver. In turn, the clearinghouse assigns the obligation to take delivery to a holder of a long futures contract. Delivery occurs two business days after the seller provides the notice of intent. Delivery takes place by the transfer of ownership of the metal warrant, at the settlement price on set by the exchange on the day the seller provides the notice of intent. The amount of metal in a bar can vary from bar to bar. Whilst a futures contract is for a standardized amount of metal (e.g. 25,000 pounds for the Copper futures contract), the exact weight of metal is taken into account when the payment amount is calculated.
When futures buyers take delivery of metal warrant, they can choose what to do with it. For example, they can choose to leave it on warrant in the warehouse, take it off warrant and sell the metal privately, or ask for its removal from the warehouse for use or storage elsewhere – a process known as load out.
All shipping and warehouse charges must be paid and settled.
Information about the amount of metal held on warrant at CME Group-approved warehouses, and the volume of deliveries taking place in base metals contract is available on www.cmegroup.com.