GLOBAL LITHIUM WRAP: Battle over market share triggers price war

A battle over market share in China has triggered a price war, pushing domestic spot battery-grade lithium carbonate prices further down on Thursday July 19, while battery-grade lithium hydroxide prices also drifted with other global markets fairly stable.

  • Battle over market share in China triggers price war pushing down battery-grade lithium carbonate prices.
  • Lithium hydroxide prices soften following the same price trend.
  • Lithium compounds sold by Qinghai based producer’s remains a main factor for the lower prices.
  • Battery grade carbonate seaborne cif China, Japan & Korean market prices softened meanwhile rest of the world prices remained stable. 
  • European and US markets stable as summer slowdown period begins.

Battery-grade lithium carbonate spot market prices have decreased further this week in China while producers battle over market share.

Metal Bulletin last assessed the Chinese domestic spot battery-grade lithium carbonate price (min 99.5% Li2CO3) at 105,000-110,000 yuan ($15,628-16,373) per tonne on Thursday 19, down from 113,000-118,000 yuan per tonne the previous week.

Some of the Qinghai-based lithium compound producers keep offering material within China at lower prices to drive converters and other lithium compound producers with higher production costs out of the market, typically lithium compound producers using hard rock.

According to Metal Bulletin’s market assessment, prices for technical and industrial grade lithium compounds offered in the Chinese spot market moved down to as low as 83,000-90,000 yuan per tonne on July 19 from 90,000-95,000 yuan per tonne on July 12, due to cheap material from the Qinghai region.

“Lithium carbonate prices keep moving down week on week as some of the Qinghai-based producers are trying to drive producers of lithium carbonate using spodumene, with typically higher production costs, out of the market,” a Chinese producer told Metal Bulletin.

“Offers by some producers in China have been quite aggressive due to the lower prices in the market, as low as 105,000 yuan per tonne, which is damaging the lithium market in the region [China, Japan and Korea],” a lithium trader told Metal Bulletin.

Slow downstream consumption in the spot market has been a factor because many consumers are hesitant to place more orders now they expect lithium prices to keep decreasing.

Meanwhile, some consumers have booked lithium compound shipments without transferring payment on fears of a further decrease in the short term.

Metal Bulletin’s assessment of battery-grade lithium hydroxide monohydrate (min 56.5% LiOH.H2O) spot prices showed the same downtrend this week moving to 128,000-135,000 yuan per tonne on Thursday July 19 from 130,000-135,000 yuan per tonne last week.

“Buyers are not active in buying lithium hydroxide, and we only have several small orders concluded at prices below 130,000 yuan per tonne,” a second Chinese producer told Metal Bulletin. “We expect the market will improve in the fourth quarter.”

Asian seaborne carbonate spot prices soften
The Asian seaborne cif China, Japan and Korea battery-grade lithium carbonate prices have softened week on week after being influenced by continuous falling prices in China.

Metal Bulletin assessed prices for battery-grade lithium carbonate (min 99.5% Li2CO3) at $17-19 per kg on July 19, widening down from $18-19 per kg the week before.

“The battery-grade lithium carbonate cif China, Japan and Korean spot prices have moved down week on week after continuous offers of lower prices at $17 per kg and below from China,” a trader told Metal Bulletin. “The Chinese domestic market is definitely damaging the seaborne region.”

Meanwhile, Metal Bulletin assessed the lithium hydroxide (min 56.5% LiOH.H2O) prices at $19-20 per kg on a cif China, Japan and Korea basis on Thursday July 19, unchanged week on week.

European, US prices steady

The European and United States’ battery-grade lithium hydroxide and carbonate spot markets were stable week on week, feeling the effect of the typical summer slowdown in the market.

Metal Bulletin last assessed battery-grade lithium carbonate prices between $17-19 per kg on a delivered duty-paid in Europe and the US on Thursday July 19, unchanged week on week.

Meanwhile, the battery-grade lithium hydroxide prices also remained unchanged week on week between $18.50-20 per kg.

“The market has been quite slow week on week and we expect the market to remain this way throughout the rest of the summer,” a third producer told Metal Bulletin.

Metal Bulletin’s trade log for battery-grade lithium carbonate in China for July includes trades, bids and offers reported to Metal Bulletin.

Learn more about Metal Bulletin’s lithium pricing methodology and read the latest lithium price spotlight here.

All lithium carbonate, hydroxide and spodumene prices are available in our Battery Raw Materials Market Tracker. Get a sample of the report here.