GLOBAL LITHIUM WRAP: Bearish Asian markets eye continuously weakening Chinese carbonate price for direction

China’s domestic battery-grade lithium market remains under downward pressure, with lower offers for carbonate bringing the assessment down by 1.8% week on week on Thursday November 14, while the downtrend in Chinese prices is weighing on the seaborne Asia market, market sources said.

  • Chinese lithium carbonate price fell again due to slow buying activities from downstream buyers. 
  • Chinese lithium hydroxide price saw no improvement in the domestic market. 
  • Asian cif China, Japan & Korea prices soft at current range under downward pressure. 
  • Europe and US carbonate price steadies on limited spot activity.

The spot battery-grade lithium carbonate price in China extended its decline this week. An increasing number of producers indicated an eagerness to boost sales and cashflow as year-end approaches, evidenced by lower offer prices in the spot market. On the buy side, sluggish demand from downstream cathode makers is adding more downward pressure on prices.

Fastmarkets assessed the lithium carbonate, 99.5% Li2CO3 min, battery grade, exw domestic China, spot price at 53,000-56,000 yuan ($7,575-8,003) per tonne on Thursday, down 1,000 yuan from 54,000-57,000 yuan per tonne last week. 

“I haven’t purchased any battery-grade lithium carbonate in recent weeks as our cathode materials’ outputs are decreasing due to the sluggish market. Prices remain soft for carbonate mostly in the range of 53,000-56,000 yuan per tonne,” a lithium buyer told Fastmarkets.

The technical and industrial-grade lithium carbonate market held steady this week in the range of 45,000-48,000 yuan per tonne.

The Chinese battery-grade lithium hydroxide market temporarily stabilized after a significant decline last week, although the price remains under downward pressure due to limited demand from the high-nickel ternary sector.

Fastmarkets assessed the lithium hydroxide monohydrate, 56.5% LiOH.H2O min, battery grade, ex-works, spot price at 55,000-60,000 yuan per tonne on Thursday. Last week, the price fell from 58,000-63,000 yuan per tonne.

“Battery-grade lithium hydroxide prices are basically level with battery-grade carbonate now at around 55,000 yuan per tonne due to quiet demand. There are also prices heard below this level, but I think those are off-grade materials,” a second buyer said.

Seaborne Asian battery-grade lithium spot prices kept within their ranges this week amid scarce spot buying but are under constant pressure from buyers who are bidding lower prices when negotiating new spot and contract procurements.

Fastmarkets assessed the lithium carbonate 99.5% Li2CO3 min, battery grade, spot price cif China, Japan & Korea at $9-11 per kg on Thursday, while lithium hydroxide monohydrate, 56.5% LiOH.H2O min, battery-grade spot price stood at $11-13 per kg.

“Seaborne Asian spot prices are under pressure, and I think prices will move down following the continuous falling of Chinese prices,” a distributor said.

European, US spot prices stabilize
The lithium carbonate 99.5% Li2CO3 min, battery grade, spot price ddp Europe and US consolidated last week’s $0.50 per kg fall, maintaining level at $10.50-12.50 per kg on Thursday.

Market participants attributed the stable assessment to quiet trading conditions with market participants immersed in long-term contracts for 2020. That said, the price could come under downward pressure in the following weeks because most participants indicated prices at the low end of the range and cited sufficient material on a spot basis.

Meanwhile, the lithium hydroxide monohydrate 56.5% LiOH.H2O min, battery grade, spot price ddp Europe and US remained steady at $12.50-13.50 per kg on Thursday, with no deals reported. The assessment has maintained this level since September 12.

“The market is quiet… consumers are waiting for the price to soften further; they see room for more falls due to oversupply at the end of the year, and some of them are waiting until December to conclude their negotiations and purchase material,” a European trader said.

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 November 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.