GLOBAL LITHIUM WRAP: China’s battery-grade carbonate prices narrow downward

By Carrie Shi
Published: Friday, 01 November 2019

Spot prices for battery-grade lithium carbonate in China narrowed downward this week while those for lithium hydroxide gained some stability.

  • Battery-grade lithium carbonate prices narrowed downward.
  • Battery-grade lithium hydroxide prices stabilized amid persistently weak domestic demand in China.
  • The cif China, Japan & Korea prices remain flat.
  • European and United States spot prices unchanged
Nearly all transactions for battery-grade lithium carbonate were concluded below 60,000 yuan ($8,519) per tonne this week. Downstream buyers were reluctant to accept higher prices, which kept buying activity thin in the spot market.

Fastmarkets’ weekly assessment for lithium carbonate, 99.5% Li2CO3 min, battery grade, spot price range exw domestic China was 56,000-59,000 yuan per tonne on Thursday October 31, down 1,000 yuan per tonne off the top end of the preceding week’s 56,000-60,000 yuan per tonne.

"Some big producers insisted on 58,000-59,000 yuan per tonne for battery-grade lithium carbonate, and lower prices of 56,000 yuan per tonne were also heard. But most producers were unwilling to go any lower than these," a buyer source told Fastmarkets.

The technical and industrial-grade lithium carbonate market held steady this week, with prices remaining at 45,000-48,000 yuan per tonne exw China.

Similarly, the battery-grade lithium hydroxide market was flat with no improvement seen in downstream sectors and most producers being firm with prices.

Fastmarkets’ weekly assessment for lithium hydroxide monohydrate 56.5% LiOH.H2O min, battery grade, spot price range exw domestic China was 58,000-63,000 yuan per tonne on Thursday, unchanged week on week.

"Downstream demand for battery-grade lithium hydroxide in China’s domestic market is showing no improvement. We haven’t adjusted our prices this week," a producer source told Fastmarkets.

Quiet Asian market
The Asian seaborne battery-grade lithium spot market was quiet this week with limited spot transactions being concluded. Though most transactions were done at prevailing prices, the market remained under downward pressure.

Fastmarkets weekly assessment for lithium carbonate 99.5% Li2CO3 min, battery grade, spot prices cif China, Japan & Korea was at $9-11 per kg on Thursday, unchanged for a sixth week.

That for lithium hydroxide monohydrate 56.5% LiOH.H2O min, battery grade, spot price cif China, Japan & Korea was $11-13 per kg, also flat for a sixth week.

"Spot prices in Asia’s seaborne market is temporarily holding steady at the current range. Though there were some lower offers, actual transactions are hard to come by. Buying activity is still thin," a distributor source said.

European, US prices stable
The market in Europe and the US remained quite stable in terms of spot prices and contract ones. But market participants noted a typical lag for these regions in comparison with Asia. Developments in the Asian market typically results in ex-Asia prices following suit.

The weekly Fastmarkets assessment for lithium carbonate 99.5% Li2CO3 min, battery grade, spot price ddp Europe and US was $11-13 per kg on Thursday, unchanged since May 23.

That for lithium hydroxide monohydrate 56.5% LiOH.H2O min, battery grade, spot price ddp Europe and US was $12.50-13.50 per kg, unchanged since September 12.

"The European market is holding steady for the moment, and no one wants to be the first to crack. We are still being watchful," a second producer source said.

"There is a lag with Asia," a third producer source said. "There is little liquidity amid the ongoing bearish scenario, but we expect the [Europe/US] prices to give in to further declines, mirroring the downtrend in Asia."

Learn more about Fastmarkets’ lithium pricing methodology here and read the latest lithium price spotlight here.

Fastmarkets’ trade log for battery-grade lithium carbonate in China for October includes all trades, bids and offers reported to Fastmarkets.

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