• China’s battery-grade lithium carbonate price narrowed up on tight supply and buying from smaller consumers.
  • Chinese producers insisted on higher prices for industrial-grade lithium carbonate.
  • Europe and US lithium technical and industrial grade market edged up, battery grade market holds on limited buying.
China’s battery-grade lithium carbonate producers continued to hold out for higher prices in the week to December 10, supported by short supply and bullish sentiment from the recent uptrend.

“We're seeing more offering prices at 47,000-48,000 [$7,182-7,335] yuan per tonne for battery-grade lithium carbonate, and producers are offering even up to 50,000 yuan per tonne for January next year. But at current stage, the mainstream market concluded prices at around 45,000 yuan per tonne,” a buyer said.

“Our orders for December have been already fulfilled, and currently we had no more available materials on hand and offering prices are above 50,000 yuan per tonne for battery-grade lithium carbonate,” a producer revealed.

“We are selling at 47,000-48,000 yuan per tonne in December for battery-grade lithium carbonate, and Prices will not below 50,000 yuan per tonne in January 2021,” a second producer added.

Some smaller-sized buyers purchased material at around 44,000-45,000 yuan per tonne and said it was hard to acquire material below this level. Meanwhile, most big downstream buyers, who stocked sufficient materials to last until the end of this month or into January 2021 were in no hurry to place more orders and held watchful attitudes at the time being.

“As we still have materials on hand, we made no new purchase. Most producers are still holding high offers now and even higher prices for January 2021, but I am still cautious and will keep holding a watchful attitude in coming market,” a second buyer told Fastmarkets.

As a result of the small deals and the high offers, Fastmarkets’ weekly price assessment for lithium carbonate, 99.5% Li2CO3 min, battery grade, spot price range exw domestic China rose to 44,000-45,000 yuan per tonne on Thursday, from 42,000-45,000 yuan per tonne in the previous week.

The price has risen from 37,000-41,000 yuan per tonne since the start of October, having been rangebound at this level since early July.

China’s technical and industrial grade lithium carbonate market also continued the upward trend, with market sources citing low availability as the cause. Most producers reported no material on hand and kept pushing offering prices higher to 43,000 yuan per tonne or even higher.

Fastmarkets assessed the Chinese technical and industrial grade lithium carbonate spot price at 39,000-41,000 yuan per tonne on Thursday. The weekly assessment had risen from 37,000-39,000 yuan per tonne on December 3.

“Offering prices are at least 43,000 yuan per tonne for industrial-grade lithium carbonate and we are also told it is in low availability,” a trader said.

The battery-grade lithium hydroxide market did not see significant fluctuation this week, and most market indications were within the current range due to slow domestic purchasing activities.

Fastmarkets’ lithium hydroxide monohydrate, 56.5% LiOH.H2O min, battery grade, spot price range exw domestic China was at 41,000-46,000 yuan per tonne on Thursday, unchanged from previous week.

“Battery-grade lithium hydroxide market is still lacks upward momentum due to no improvement in domestic demand. I haven’t seen any price increase so far,” a third buyer said.

Asian market focus on contract negotiations
The cif China, Japan and Korea battery-grade lithium spot market remained unchanged this week. Spot trading was thin and most buyers were still locked in contract negotiations for next year's long-term supply.

Fastmarkets assessed the lithium carbonate, 99.5% Li2CO3 min, battery grade, spot price at $6-7.50 per kg on a cif China, Japan and Korea basis on Thursday.

The lithium hydroxide monohydrate, 56.5% LiOH.H2O min, battery grade, spot price, cif China, Japan and Korea was also unchanged at $8.50-9.50 per kg on Thursday.

“At current stage I haven’t seen any changes and I have not adjusted our prices for battery-grade lithium carbonate. Most Asian seaborne prices are still within $6-7.50 per kg,” a third producer said.

Both battery-grade assessments have remained at these levels since September 17.

Prices in Europe, US remain firm
The Europe, US battery-grade lithium hydroxide spot price remained stable on limited spot deals achieved although sources agreed that upward price pressure stemming from the more active Chinese spot market will likely filter through in the near term.

Fastmarkets assessed the lithium hydroxide monohydrate 56.5% LiOH.H2O min, battery grade, spot price ddp Europe and US at $9-11 per kg on December 10 unchanged from the previous week. 

Fastmarkets' lithium carbonate 99.5% Li2CO3 min, battery grade, spot price ddp Europe and US stood at $7.50-8.50 per kg on Thursday, unchanged for eight consecutive weeks after narrowing down from $7.50-8.80 per kg at the beginning of October

There was some upside for the technical and industrial grades, supported by rising freight costs and year-end buying.

Fastmarkets assessed the lithium carbonate 99% Li2CO3 min, technical and industrial grades, spot price ddp Europe and US at $6.50-7.50 per kg on Thursday, up from $5.80-7.00 per kg. The price was supported by higher freight rates from China.

“With the current shipping disruptions and the higher freight costs I cannot see anyone offering below $6.50 per kg,” a trader said. “We are offering above $7 per kg if we want to make any margin,” he added.

Similarly, Fastmarkets' lithium hydroxide monohydrate 56.5% LiOH.H2O min, technical and industrial grade, spot price ddp Europe and US was assessed higher at $7.50-9 per kg on December 10, widening on the top end from $7.50-8.20 per kg the week before.

“There is a good level of activity with some several orders before the year-end,” a second trader said.



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 December 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.