IM prices March 2015

By Laura Syrett, Shruti Salwan
Published: Friday, 27 February 2015

Lithium carbonate to remain flat in coming months while graphite prices still under strain.

Lithium carbonate to remain flat in coming months

Prices for lithium carbonate remained flat into 2015, although this has done little to dampen generally positive sentiment in the market.

Chile-based producers have told IM that prices are steady but that demand is strong, saying they expected selling values to remain at present levels for the coming months before potentially climbing from a solid base.

In an earnings call in early February to discuss the company’s full year 2014 results, Pierre Brondeau, CEO of FMC Corp., said that demand conditions for lithium had been "mixed" in 2014, but that demand from the energy storage sector "continues to grow at double digit rates".

"This has led to a tightening in some segments and created (…) a more favourable pricing environment, especially for lithium hydroxide," he added.

Analysts have suggested to IM that some lithium producers are deliberately withholding capacity from the market in an effort to support prices (see pp31-32). While projections of consumption growth appear to create a gap in the market for new entrants, sources warned that this space can be closed rapidly if existing suppliers decide to ramp up production.

"It seems unlikely that companies already active in this space will want to pass over any additional market share. How easy it is for new players to break into the supply chain will depend on how quickly demand grows, rather than by how much in the long term," one analyst said.

Lithium carbonate, large contracts, del continental US, $/lb


Price1  

Lithium carbonate, large contracts, del continental US, lb $2.7-3.1

Lithium hydroxide, 56.5-57.5% LiOH, large contracts, packed in
drums or bags, del Europe or US, kg $7.5-8.5

Lithium hydroxide, Chinese, (56.5-57.5% LiOH), packed in drums
or bags, large contracts, del Europe $/kg $7.2-8

Lithium carbonate, large contracts, del continental US, kg $6-6.5

Lithium carbonate, large contracts, packed in bags, CIF Asia, kg $5.2-5.5



Graphite prices still under strain

The ongoing excess in flake graphite supplies continued to weigh adversely on graphite prices throughout the last year. 

Although some signs of recovery were seen in Q2 2014, with China’s flake graphite consolidation plans increasing fears of a supply squeeze, the rebound was short lived as producers continued to face a lack of demand.

Prices for medium-to-fine mesh flake imported into Europe on a CIF basis fell by 3-17% in 2014.

Low consumption rates throug-hout the year have dragged many prices to four-year lows and despite reduced production over H1 2014 – largely in China – following the news of impending closures in Heilongjiang province, this failed to bring any upturn in prices. 

Downward pressure on prices was relieved slightly by the news that Tesla’s Gigafactory project would potentially increase demand for natural graphite by 152% by the end of the decade, however sales remained slow across the market with only large mesh grades including +80 and +50 mesh sizes benefitting from the news. 

A divergence in prices from China emerged during Q3 2014 as the country registered a seasonal slowdown in production, leading to price rises in other regions. Reduced supply from Heilongjiang saw suppliers in other areas increase offers, which registered an upward price pressure approaching Q4 2014.

Graphite, Flake, 94-97% C, +100 mesh-80 mesh, FCL, CIF European port, $/tonne 
Price2  

Graphite, Flake, 94-97% C, +80 mesh, FCL, CIF Europe port, tonne $1,400-1,500

Graphite, Flake, 85-87% C, +100mesh -80mesh, FCL, CIF, Europe port, tonne $700-800

Graphite, Flake, 90%C, -100 mesh, FCL, CIF, Europe port, tonne $750-800

Graphite, Flake, 94-97%C, -100 mesh, FCL, CIF, Europe port, tonne $1,000-1,100

Graphite, Flake, 94-97% C, +100 mesh-80 mesh, FCL, CIF European port, tonne $1,200-1,300

Graphite, Flake, 90% C, +80 mesh, CIF, Europe port, $/tonne $1,150-1,200

Graphite, Flake, 90% C, +100 mesh -80 mesh, FCL, CIF, Europe port, $/tonne $950-1,050 

IM’s full price listing will now only be published online at www.indmin.com/PricingDatabase. If you have any comments or concerns, or wish to discuss any of the grades or prices listed, please contact Laura Syrett, Prices Editor, at lsyrett@indmin.com. 

For in-depth fluorspar and graphite price analysis, please visit the IM Data mineral tracker pages online.

Bold indicates a price change from the previous month (it may have changed more than once during the month). All prices are listed in US$ and quoted per tonne unless indicated.