GLOBAL LITHIUM WRAP: Chinese, Europe, US lithium carbonate prices edge down

By Martim Facada, Carrie Shi
Published: Friday, 17 August 2018

Chinese domestic spot battery-grade lithium carbonate prices have fallen on thin buying activity and lower prices, while lithium hydroxide prices have temporarily stabilized this week, while seaborne, European and US lithium carbonate prices moved down.

  • Battery-grade lithium carbonate prices continue their downtrend while downstream consumers are waiting for the market to hit the bottom due to the good level of material stocks.
  • Prices for battery-grade lithium carbonate compounds produced from brine remain trading at a lower price compared to the same type of lithium compounds produced from hard rock, due to higher production costs for lithium made from hard rock.
  • Battery-grade lithium hydroxide prices have temporarily stabilized this week on quiet trade. 
  • Seaborne cif China, Japan & South Korea, European and US lithium carbonate market prices fell week on week due to the decreasing price trend in China. 
The battery-grade lithium carbonate spot market in China remains influenced by weak demand, with lower prices offered in the spot market amid good existing stocks.

Embedded in this market situation, consumers are holding back on procuring more material while waiting for the market to bottom-out and reach lower prices.

Industrial Minerals last assessed the Chinese domestic spot battery-grade lithium carbonate price (min 99.5% Li2CO3) at 90,000-95,000 yuan ($13,008-13,730) per tonne on Thursday August 16, down from 94,000-100,000 yuan per tonne the previous week.

"We lowered our battery-grade lithium carbonate prices again this week as consumers keep pushing for lower prices," a lithium producer told Industrial Minerals. "Most consumers are now looking to purchase material on a weekly or monthly basis due to the fear of further lower prices in the weeks to come."

Battery-grade lithium carbonate as well as technical and industrial-grade, produced from brine from Tibet and the Qinghai regions, remain trading at the low end of Industrial Minerals’ price range for lithium carbonate due to lower production costs compared to compounds produced from hard rock.

Technical and industrial-grade lithium carbonate market prices were at 75,000-80,000 yuan per tonne on Thursday August 16, unchanged week on week, according to Industrial Minerals’ market assessment.

Despite the downtrend in battery-grade lithium carbonate prices, battery-grade lithium hydroxide prices have stabilized this week.

Battery-grade lithium hydroxide monohydrate (min 56.5% LiOH.H2O) prices were at 115,000-130,000 yuan per tonne on Thursday August 16, unchanged from the previous week, according to Industrial Minerals’ market assessment.

"The Chinese lithium hydroxide market remains within a wide price range due to the premium paid for battery-grade lithium hydroxide compounds as well as for the micronized material, which holds a premium above the rest of battery-grade lithium hydroxide," a second producer told Industrial Minerals.

"Micronized and higher purity battery-grade lithium hydroxide are trading at 130,000 yuan per tonne and slightly above, whereas the normal battery-grade material is trading as low as 115,000 yuan per tonne," the producer added.

Asian seaborne price falls
The seaborne Asian cif China, Japan and Korea battery-grade lithium carbonate price has been influenced by the continuous dips in domestic Chinese prices.

Industrial Minerals assessed the price for battery-grade lithium carbonate (min 99.5% Li2CO3) cif China, Japan and South Korea at $16-18 per kg on Thursday August 16, moving down from $16.50-18.50 per kg from previous week.

"We keep receiving offers for Chinese material even below $16 per kg but we don’t believe the market is already at that type of price level," a trader told Industrial Minerals.

"We have heard prices as low as $15 per kg for battery-grade lithium carbonate compounds and that is because Chinese producers are trying to achieve higher prices outside China," a distributor told Industrial Minerals.

Meanwhile, a lack of activity has kept battery-grade lithium hydroxide (min 56.5% LiOH.H2O) spot prices at $19-20 per kg on a cif China, Japan and Korea basis on Thursday August 16, unchanged week on week according to Industrial Minerals’ market assessment.

European, US carbonate prices down
European and US battery-grade lithium carbonate spot prices continued to fall week on week, affected by lower Chinese prices and a lack of demand during the current summer holiday period.

Industrial Minerals assessed prices for battery-grade lithium carbonate, min 99.5% Li2CO at $16-18 per kg, ddp Europe and US on Thursday August 16, decreasing from $17-18.50 per kg last week.

"The market is quite slow due to the holiday season and we have been offering material as low as $16 per kg in order to sell some material amid this very slow market," a second trader told Industrial Minerals. "We have not locked in any material yet as consumers are waiting to see the market dip."

Despite the current descending market trend, depressed demand kept lithium-hydroxide monohydrate, min 56.5% LiOH H2O, spot prices unchanged week on week between $18.50-20 per kg, ddp Europe and US, on Thursday August 16 according to Industrial Minerals’ assessment.

Metal Bulletin’s trade log for battery-grade lithium carbonate in China for August includes all trades, bids and offers reported to Metal Bulletin. 

Learn more about Metal Bulletin's lithium pricing methodology and read the latest lithium price spotlight here

All lithium carbonate, hydroxide and spodumene prices are available in our Battery Raw Materials Market Tracker.  Get a sample of the report here.