China lithium spot prices inch down

Spot lithium prices in China inched down over the week to Thursday May 30 amid ongoing limited appetite for spot materials and bearish sentiment on near-term demand, sources told Fastmarkets

Lithium prices in the CIF China, Japan and Korea (CJK) market remained unchanged over the week amid thin spot treading. Lithium prices in Europe and United States, however, were mostly down.

China

The spot lithium market remained illiquid over the recent week, with sources noting that downstream consumers were still inactive with replenishing their inventories.

“Most Chinese cathode makers haven’t been restocking lithium salts. They have increasingly relied on the supply delivered directly by their downstream customers, the battery makers. So the spot lithium market has been quiet over the past week,” a Chinese battery metals trader said.

Many other sources echoed the same view.

Some sources attributed the current slow demand for spot lithium salts to the accumulated inventories in the downstream cathode and battery sector.

“The output of cathodes and batteries in the recent months was large. But now that the overall market demand from the electric vehicle (EV) sector has slowed and we are entering the typical slack season, the spot lithium market has become very inactive,” a Chinese second lithium producer source said.

Multiple market participants expressed bearish sentiment, indicating little hope for any demand improvement for lithium salts in the short term, which could add further downward pressure to the lithium prices.

Chinese lepidolite and lithium producer Yichun Mining held an online tender for 192 tonnes of battery-grade lithium carbonate on Tuesday May 28, while the result was concluded at 106,200 yuan per tonne, according to multiple sources.

“In terms of lithium hydroxide, I think the domestic demand for the material is better than what it seems to be now. But the issue is the price. If the price is low enough, we may see better liquidity of hydroxide,” a second Chinese lithium producer source said.

Fastmarkets’ weekly assessment of lithium carbonate 99.5% Li2CO3 min, battery grade, spot price range exw domestic China was 104,000-106,200 yuan ($14,367-14,671) per tonne on Thursday, down by 700-1,000 yuan per tonne from 105,000-106,900 yuan per tonne a week earlier.

Fastmarkets’ weekly assessment of lithium hydroxide monohydrate LiOH.H2O 56.5% LiOH min, battery grade, spot price range exw domestic China was 94,000-103,000 yuan per tonne, down by 1,000-2,000 yuan per tonne from 95,000-105,000 yuan per tonne a week earlier.

CIF CJK

The spot lithium prices in the CIF CJK market remained unchanged over the recent week, with market participants noting limited changes to market fundamentals.

“The spot market has been quiet and stable recently, and the prices haven’t fluctuated much,” an East Asian consumer source said.

Multiple other sources said that although Chinese lithium prices were under downward pressure, the decline was only mild. Consequently, the weakness in China’s domestic market did not filter through to the CJK market over the recent week.

On the other hand, market participants showed mixed views on the demand for lithium hydroxide.

“The enquiries for battery-grade lithium hydroxide were active. While some of those enquiries were due to the consumers’ genuine demand, many other consumers just enquired to test the market prices,” a Chinese third lithium producer source said.

A second East Asian consumer source said they were not restocking lithium at the moment and trying to minimize inventories since they were soon about to release their half-year financial performance reports.

But an East Asian trader noted that the demand for hydroxide and carbonate was still well supported, since some consumers were running low on the inventories they built up in the beginning of the year.

Fastmarkets’ daily price assessment of lithium hydroxide monohydrate LiOH.H2O 56.5% LiOH min, battery grade, spot price cif China, Japan & Korea was $13.40-14.50 per kg on Thursday, unchanged since May 22.

Fastmarkets’ daily price assessment of lithium carbonate 99.5% Li2CO3 min, battery grade, spot prices cif China, Japan & Korea was $13.50-14.50 per kg on Thursday, unchanged since May 22.

Europe and US lithium

Europe lithium prices dropped in the week to Thursday, following weaker sentiment in Asia, but were mixed in North America.

Spot market activity in both the European and North American regions remained quiet over the recent week.

Prices dropped in Europe on the expectation that demand will remain weak in China in June. An intermediary reported potential lower prices in the hydroxide market, though transactions had not yet been confirmed.

In North America, prices for lithium carbonate market were flat, but those for hydroxide dropped slightly.

A seller active in Europe and the North American markets said those regions overall continue to maintain a premium over seaborne Asia markets.

Fastmarkets’ latest price assessment for lithium carbonate 99.5% Li2CO3 min, battery grade, spot price ddp Europe was $14.00-15.20 per kg on Thursday, down from $14.00-15.50 per kg a week prior.

Fastmarkets’ price assessment for lithium carbonate 99.5% Li2CO3 min, battery grade, spot price ddp US and Canada was $14.00-15.50 per kg, unchanged week on week

Fastmarkets’ latest price assessment for lithium hydroxide monohydrate LiOH.H2O 56.5% LiOH min, battery grade, spot price ddp Europe was $14.00-15.20 per kg on Thursday, down from $14.30-15.50 per kg in the preceding week.

Fastmarkets’ price assessment for lithium hydroxide monohydrate LiOH.H2O 56.5% LiOH min, battery grade, spot price ddp US and Canada was $14.00-15.50 per kg, down from $14.50-15.75 per kg the week prior.

Get transparency into the market movements with our battery raw materials price forecasts and market outlooks. Download a sample of our lithium long-term forecast now.

What to read next
Aluminium and lithium market participants told Fastmarkets the European Commission’s provisional additional duties on Chinese electric vehicles (EVs) are supportive for production but they were not convinced they would be enough to reverse the fortunes of the weakening domestic European auto market
The European Union announced on Wednesday June 12 that it will impose additional tariffs of up to 38.1% on electric vehicles (EVs) imported from China from July 4.
Europe’s nascent synthetic graphite sector faces a double threat with China’s overcapacity persisting and US legislation embracing protectionism at the expense of a level playing field, according to the head of a forthcoming anode material producer in Europe
Read more from senior analyst Andy Farida on how the price action in LME nickel has played out in the first half of 2024
Fastmarkets provide an overview of lithium hydroxide’s recent global performance across key regions and offer insights into what 2024 might hold for battery manufacturers, energy sector analysts and lithium hydroxide buyers.
Low demand from China’s magnet manufacturing sector continued to drive down rare earth prices on domestic and export markets, with suppliers cutting prices to close sales, sources told Fastmarkets in the week to Thursday June 6