Chinese lithium prices strengthen on stable demand
Chinese lithium carbonate prices increased over the week to Thursday June 8, supported by stable downstream demand and efforts from sellers to push up prices, which in turn supported lithium hydroxide prices in China
The strength in Chinese lithium markets filtered through to others, elevating lithium prices elsewhere in the world as a result.
- Chinese lithium prices up on stable demand
- Market participants spoke of stable demand for battery-grade lithium carbonate over the past week.
While some consumers purchased spot material mainly on a hand-to-mouth basis, others showed good appetite for spot units amid increased lithium iron phosphate battery cathode production in June, sources said.
Some lithium carbonate sellers also expected prices to further increase in the near future and tried to further push up lithium carbonate prices over the past week by offering at higher prices.
“I think that battery-grade lithium carbonate prices may be able to reach 350,000 yuan per tonne in the near term, so I offered at that price this week. [Prices] are expected to rise on tight availability. Many lithium producers are running low on their inventories and their feedstock supply,” a Chinese lithium producer source said.
Some sellers also held back from offering spot materials over the week to Thursday amid the expected near-term price uptick.
“Many downstream consumers showed resistance to higher lithium carbonate prices, however. They struggled to shift the pressure from the rising downstream costs to their consumers,” a second Chinese lithium producer source said.
The consumer resistance limited the speed of the uptrend in Chinese lithium carbonate prices, market participants said.
Fastmarkets’ price assessment for lithium carbonate 99.5% Li2CO3 min, battery grade, spot price range exw domestic China was 310,000-330,000 yuan ($43,506-46,313) per tonne on Thursday, up by 10,000 yuan per tonne from 300,000-320,000 yuan per tonne a week earlier.
On the other hand, lithium hydroxide prices in China also trended upward over the week to Thursday, pulled along by higher costs for lithium carbonate.
“Demand for lithium hydroxide is just tepid because downstream nickel-cobalt-manganese (NCM) battery cathode production rates are not high,” a Chinese lithium trader said.
Fastmarkets’ price assessment for lithium hydroxide monohydrate LiOH.H2O 56.5% LiOH min, battery grade, spot price range exw domestic China was 300,000-352,000 yuan per tonne on Thursday, up by 10,000-32,000 yuan per tonne from 290,000-320,000 yuan per tonne a week earlier.
East Asian lithium prices follow Chinese uptrend
East Asian lithium hydroxide prices also increased over the past week, supported by the strength in the domestic Chinese lithium market.
“Lithium hydroxide demand was stable over the past week. But the Chinese lithium hydroxide prices were rising, so the East Asian prices rose accordingly,” a second Chinese lithium producer source said.
In addition, tight spot availability among lithium hydroxide producers also added further fuel to prices.
“We are tied up with long-term deliveries and have very limited spot availability. So the deals we made this week achieved higher prices than last week,” a third Chinese lithium producer source said.
East Asian lithium carbonate prices surged to $42-48 per kg on Tuesday June 6 from $ $34-42 per kg a day earlier, spurred on by the ongoing rally in the Chinese domestic lithium market.
Fastmarkets’ daily price assessment for lithium carbonate 99.5% Li2CO3 min, battery grade, spot prices cif China, Japan & Korea, was $42-48 per kg on Thursday, unchanged from a day earlier.
Strength of Asian markets boosts Europe, US lithium spot prices
Spot lithium prices in Europe and the United States registered across-the-board increases in the week to Thursday, driven by the strength in the domestic Chinese market filtering through international lithium prices.
“Demand for [lithium] carbonate is slowly picking up in China and this is affecting prices overseas. In Europe, however, I still see a premium for technical grade hydroxide due to limited availability and steadier demand,” a distributor active in the European and seaborne Asian markets said.
A Chinese seller also active in Europe echoed the same view adding that: “European demand is very small, and it takes around 15 days for the material ready to be shipped from China after the contract is signed, so there is no reason to sell into Europe at lower prices than the Chinese domestic level.”
Fastmarkets last assessed the price of lithium carbonate 99% Li2CO3 min, technical and industrial grades, spot price ddp Europe and US at $39-45 per kg on Thursday June 8, up by $4-8 per kg from $35-37 per kg a week earlier.
Spodumene prices under pressure from limited lithium price recovery
Spodumene prices trended downward over the recent two weeks to Thursday June 8, with market participants citing consumer resistance to high spodumene prices amid limited improvement in downstream lithium prices.
“Lithium prices only recovered to a limited extent over the past two weeks. Such a recovery is not enough to spur spodumene prices to rise. In fact, lithium producers wouldn’t make much profit at all if spodumene prices are above $4,000 yuan per tonne,” a second Chinese lithium trader said.
Fastmarkets’ fortnightly price assessment for spodumene min 6% Li2O, spot price, cif China was $3,500-4,000 per tonne on Thursday, down by $500-510 per tonne from $4,000-4,510 per tonne.
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