• Battery-grade lithium compounds spot prices in China stabilized this week 
  • Rest-of-the-world battery-grade lithium compounds softened due to price falls in the Chinese domestic market over the past three weeks 
  • Sluggish spot market activity owing to buyer reluctance and expectations of further price drops dampened prices in the United States and Europe

Metal Bulletin’s Chinese domestic lithium carbonate battery-grade (min 99.5% Li2CO3) spot prices were stable at 135,000-140,000 yuan ($21,239-22,026) per tonne on Thursday May 10 after three consecutive weeks of falls.

One lithium producer told Metal Bulletin he resisted selling lithium carbonate at less than 140,000 yuan per tonne, although he heard some suppliers offering closer to the low end of the Metal Bulletin assessed range.

“Demand for battery-grade lithium carbonate remains soft but prices have stabilized this week as lithium suppliers in China are unwilling to reduce their selling prices,” the Chinese producer said. “We won’t sell our battery-grade material below 140,000 yuan per tonne despite some suppliers offering more competitive [lower] prices in the spot market.”

“Battery-grade lithium carbonate spot prices have stabilized this week as the major Chinese producers still insist on keeping their prices close to 140,000 yuan per tonne,” a second Chinese producer said. “However, if you lock in higher volumes [200-300 tonnes] you will be able to buy material at 135,000 yuan per tonne.”

The typically less volatile battery-grade lithium hydroxide monohydrate (min 56.5% LiOH.H2O) spot market remained stable too at 148,000-153,000 yuan per tonne ex-works China on Thursday due to quiet demand from buyers.

Seaborne market moves down
Cif China, Japan and Korean battery-grade lithium carbonate spot prices softened week on week on Thursday, marking a second consecutive week of falling prices in the seaborne market.

Metal Bulletin’s battery-grade lithium carbonate (min 99.5% Li2CO3) spot prices cif China, Japan and Korea moved down to $18-20 per kg on Thursday from $18-21 per kg in the previous week.

“We have been offering battery-grade lithium carbonate as high as $20 per kg over the course of the week. However, consumers seem to be holding off purchasing as they think prices might go down again,” a lithium trader told Metal Bulletin. “The seaborne battery-grade lithium carbonate and hydroxide spot markets have gone down mainly due to the recent drop in prices inside China.” 

Battery-grade lithium hydroxide monohydrate (min 56.5% LiOH.H2O) spot prices followed the lithium carbonate price trend moving down to $20-21 per kg on a cif China, Japan and Korea basis, from $20-22 per kg last week, according to Metal Bulletin’s market assessment on Thursday May 10.

“We have been receiving different offers for material as high as $22 per kg on a cif China basis for full containers of battery-grade lithium hydroxide, but we have not purchased as we find these prices quite high,” a Chinese consumer said. “We believe prices are currently as low as $20 per kg.”

“Our selling price has been reduced by $1 per kg over the course of the past week and we would expect to sell material at least at $21 per kg, but $20 per kg would also be a realistic price as we have been struggling to keep our prices as high as $21 per kg,” a third lithium producer said.

Europe, US markets soften
The European and US spot markets softened week on week on downstream consumers’ anticipation of lower spot market prices due to the fall in prices in the Chinese domestic spot market over the course of recent weeks as well as continuous sluggish demand.

The battery-grade lithium carbonate (min 99.5% Li2CO3) spot prices, duty-paid Europe and US, moved down to $17.5-20 per kg from $18-20.50 per kg previously, according to Metal Bulletin’s market assessment on Thursday.

Meanwhile, Metal Bulletin’s lithium hydroxide monohydrate (min 56.5% LiOH.H2O), duty-paid Europe and US price dropped to $19-21 per kg from $19-21.50 per kg the week before.

“The European and US battery-grade lithium carbonate and hydroxide spot prices have moved down on lower Chinese domestic spot prices [recently] alongside continuous sluggish consumption seen over past weeks,” a trader told Metal Bulletin.

“Global demand for lithium compounds in the spot market remains slow recently as downstream consumers are waiting for cheaper prices. But we believe this is a temporary situation,” a fourth lithium producer told Metal Bulletin.

Metal Bulletin lithium prices