Chinese lithium carbonate prices start new downtrend

Chinese lithium carbonate prices drifted lower in the week ended Thursday October 26 amid ongoing bearish sentiment and limited demand, ending the uptrend in the recent fortnight, while those for Chinese lithium hydroxide remained flat amid thin trading due to muted demand

Lithium prices in other markets also trended downward in line with the weakness seen in China.

  • Chinese lithium carbonate prices down amid bearish sentiment, thin demand; hydroxide prices flat
  • East Asian lithium prices down on weak demand and consumer caution
  • European, US lithium prices down, following Asian downtrend

Fastmarkets observed a limited number of spot activity over the recent week in China’s domestic market, with the majority of Chinese market participants attending an industry conference.
Spot lithium carbonate prices in China edged lower, ending the strength seen in the recent fortnight amid ongoing widespread bearish sentiment.

Fastmarkets’ price assessment of lithium carbonate 99.5% Li2CO3 min, battery grade, spot price range exw domestic China was 160,000-170,000 yuan ($21,870-23,237) per tonne on Thursday, down by 5,000-6,000 yuan per tonne from 165,000-176,000yuan per tonne a week earlier.

Market participants widely expressed at the industry conference that the demand for lithium salts remained thin and there was little hope for any noticeable demand recovery in the near future.

“I am not expecting an uptick in lithium demand or prices toward the end of this year, because there has been no sign of any increasing procurement even…. The market could remain weak going into the first quarter [of 2024],” a Chinese cathode producer source said.

Talks that some lithium miners may have agreed to delay their quotation period (QP) for long-term spodumene contracts started spreading in the end of the prior week, which intensified the bearish sentiment, sources told Fastmarkets.

The lithium carbonate futures contract on Guangzhou Futures Exchange also fell on for two consecutive days starting on Thursday October 19, which market participants attributed to the spodumene QP talks.

The most-traded January 2024 lithium carbonate contract on the Guangzhou Futures Exchange (GFEX) closed at 151,950 yuan per tonne on Friday October 20, down by 12,800 yuan per tonne from opening at 164,750 yuan per tonne on Thursday.

The futures market weakness also contributed to the lower lithium carbonate prices over the week to Thursday, sources said.

The lithium hydroxide market remained weaker than the lithium carbonate market, with barely any demand for spot units since most consumers relied only on long-term orders or supply provided from their end customers, sources told Fastmarkets.

“There’s basically no demand for spot lithium hydroxide due to the sluggish nickel cobalt manganese (NCM) battery sector in China. With no demand, it’s hard to strike any deals regardless of how competitive the prices are,” a Chinese lithium trader said.

Fastmarkets’ price assessment of lithium hydroxide monohydrate LiOH.H2O 56.5% LiOH min, battery grade, spot price range exw domestic China was 150,000-160,000 yuan per tonne on Thursday, unchanged from a week earlier.

East Asian market continues weakness

East Asian lithium hydroxide prices remained under downward pressure over the week ended Thursday amid sustained weakness in consumer demand, while spot market activities were also limited due to Chinese market participants attending an industry conference.

“Spot demand for lithium is limited. Following the volatility of China’s lithium prices after the country’s Golden Week holiday, the limited numbers of consumers who have spot demand have become even more cautious,” a Chinese lithium producer source said.

“Lithium hydroxide prices in East Asia are retreating from last week’s level because China’s lithium prices now start to fall again,” a second Chinese lithium producer source said.

Fastmarkets’ daily price assessment of lithium hydroxide monohydrate LiOH.H2O 56.5% LiOH min, battery grade, spot price cif China, Japan & Korea was $21.50-24.00 per kg on Thursday, unchanged from a day earlier, but down by $0.50-1.00 per kg from $22.00-25.00 per kg a week earlier.

While spot liquidity for both hydroxide and carbonate remained limited over the past week, the carbonate prices in East Asia were flat over the past week.

“The carbonate prices in East Asia are very close to the prices in China’s domestic market. So I think it will have limited room to edge even lower for the time being,” the second Chinese lithium producer source said.

Fastmarkets’ daily price assessment of lithium carbonate 99.5% Li2CO3 min, battery grade, spot prices cif China, Japan & Korea was $22.00-24.00 per kg on Thursday, unchanged since October 16.

Europe, US lithium spot prices edge lower on weakness in Asian prices, faltering demand

Spot lithium prices in Europe and the United States continued to edge lower over the past week narrowing their gap to the East Asia equivalent spot lithium prices with consumers’ demand continuing to falter and inventory levels remaining high, sources said.

A seller active in Europe and in Asia commented that demand from both battery value chain and industrial applications is weak at the moment and there is a feeling that stock levels remain elevated across the value chain.

“We have not seen major enquiries or concluded major sales of lithium salts, since demand is still very poor. For the fourth quarter of this year and the first quarter of next year, we have heard expectations of lithium prices remaining weak. But there could be potential improvements on the demand for the second quarter of next year,” the seller said.

A second seller commented that the differential between Europe, US DDP prices and CIF East Asia lithium spot prices narrowed significantly due to poor demand outlook and a number of sellers trying to aggressively offload material wherever it can be sold.

Fastmarkets’ latest price assessment of lithium carbonate 99% Li2CO3 min, technical and industrial grades, spot price ddp Europe and US was $20-23 per kg on Thursday October 26, widening downward by $1 per kg from $21-23 per kg a week earlier.

A similar downward trend was seen across other lithium grades.

Fastmarkets’ latest price assessment of lithium carbonate 99.5% Li2CO3 min, battery grade, spot price ddp Europe and US was $22-25 per kg on Thursday, widening downward by $1 per kg from $23-25 per kg a week earlier.

The price reached parity with the spot lithium hydroxide price for battery grade in the Europe and US regions in a similar trend seen in East Asia with minimal differential observed with the two battery grade prices.

Keep up to date with the latest lithium prices, data and forecasts on our dedicated lithium price page.

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