• China’s battery-grade lithium carbonate price hit a 14-month high due to continued tight supply and producers hiking up prices further.
  • Chinese industrial-grade lithium carbonate offers surged as well amid low availability of material.
  • Offer prices in China’s lithium hydroxide market are also creeping higher but the assessment range held on a weekly basis.
The uptrend in China’s domestic battery-grade lithium carbonate price accelerated in the first pricing session of 2021 on tight supply and surging offering prices from most producers. Some buyers, who were in dire need for materials, purchased at higher levels.

Fastmarkets’ weekly price assessment for lithium carbonate, 99.5% Li2CO3 min, battery grade, spot price range exw domestic China was 50,000-58,000 yuan ($7,735-8,973) per tonne on Thursday January 7, up from 48,000-52,000 yuan per tonne in the previous week and the highest since hitting 56,000-59,000 yuan per tonne on October 31, 2019.

“Prices saw further increases this week entering January, with most producers even offering at 60,000-65,000 yuan per tonne for battery-grade lithium carbonate. I heard some deals concluded at 58,000-61,000 yuan per tonne for cash settlement if buyers are in emergency need for materials,” a buyer told Fastmarkets.

“We are offering battery-grade lithium carbonate at 60,000 yuan per tonne, and we have no available materials on hand with most materials already booked,” a producer said.

China’s technical and industrial grade lithium carbonate market also saw much higher offers up to 50,000-60,000 yuan per tonne, with limited availability in spot material.

Fastmarkets assessed the Chinese technical and industrial grade lithium carbonate spot price at 42,000-48,000 yuan per tonne on Thursday, rising from 40,000-45,000 yuan per tonne on December 31.

“The key issue is lack of supply, and some offering prices are even up to 60,000 yuan per tonne for industrial-grade lithium carbonate,” a trader said.

The bullish sentiment also spread to the battery-grade lithium hydroxide market, which saw higher offering prices from producers trying to push up prices following the surge in the lithium carbonate sector this week. But there were limited new deals concluded at the higher level.

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 January 7, unchanged from the previous week.

“Battery-grade lithium hydroxide offering prices are [as high as] 46,000-50,000 yuan per tonne with more suppliers pushing up prices to test the market. But trade activities remain thin this week,” a second buyer said.

Asian seaborne lithium market flat
The cif China, Japan and Korea battery-grade lithium spot market was flat due to a silent market in the week after the Christmas and New Year holiday, but market sources expect bullish domestic Chinese markets to support a gradual increase in the seaborne market.

Fastmarkets assessed the lithium carbonate, 99.5% Li2CO3 min, battery grade, spot price cif China, Japan and Korea at $6 -7.50 per kg on Thursday January 7, stable week on week.

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

“I haven’t seen any changes this week as I just got back from holiday late this week. China’s lithium carbonate prices kept surging and I think it will impact seaborne prices gradually. Some offering prices are seen around $1 per kg higher from some suppliers compared with previous prices,” a distributor said.

Europe, US lithium markets start year steady
The Europe, US battery-grade lithium carbonate and hydroxide spot markets remained stable on limited spot activity following the end of the Christmas celebrations.

On the other hand, activity picked up on the technical grade side with sources reporting expectations of price increases in the near term.

“The [lithium] carbonate market is tight in China and we are receiving inquiries from China and even from India just because of this carbonate tightness in China….even just for 20 tonnes but we are completely sold out for Q1, I have no material to offer to people,” a supplier active in Europe and Asia said.

Fastmarkets assessed the lithium carbonate 99.5% Li2CO3 min, battery grade, spot price ddp Europe and US at $7.50-8.50 per kg on Thursday January 7, unchanged for 13 weeks.

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 Thursday January 7, unchanged for six weeks after widening up from $9-9.8 per kg at the end of November.

Sources told Fastmarkets that they expect increases in technical grade lithium carbonate prices in the coming weeks when the strength from the bullish carbonate market in China filters through.

“I think in the coming weeks we’ll see prices above $7 per kg for carbonate technical grade,” an upstream player said.

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 January 7, unchanged over the past week but up from $5.80-7 per kg at the beginning of December. 



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 January 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.