GLOBAL LITHIUM WRAP: China lithium prices rise on consumer restocking; European, US prices steady

Lithium prices in China mostly rose over the week ending Thursday July 22 due to restocking drives among consumers, sources told Fastmarkets.

  • Lithium prices in Chinese domestic market rise amid consumer restocking activity.
  • Seaborne Asian lithium market remains steady amid persistently tight supply.
  • European and US prices remain largely stable, with technical-grade lithium hydroxide narrowing upward slightly.

Battery-grade lithium prices in the domestic Chinese market edged up when suppliers managed to translate higher offers into spot business amid routine restocking activities among consumers who intended to secure August units.
Fastmarkets’ assessment of the lithium carbonate 99.5% Li2CO3 min, battery grade, spot price range, ex-works domestic China rose to 88,000-90,000 yuan ($13,613-13,923) per tonne on Thursday, up by 1,000 yuan per tonne from 87,000-89,000 yuan per tonne one week ago.

Due to fresh monthly restocking appetites, strength seen in the technical-grade units in the past three weeks has finally been mirrored in the battery-grade price.

Fastmarkets’ price assessment for lithium carbonate 99% Li2CO3 min, technical and industrial grade, spot price range, exw domestic China rose to 83,000-84,000 yuan on July 22, up from 82,000-83,000 yuan per tonne one week ago. The technical-grade unit price has moved up for fourth consecutive week from 77,000-80,000 yuan per tonne on June 24.

Market participants acknowledged demand from lithium cobalt oxide (LCO) battery and cobalt-rich nickel-cobalt-manganese (NCM) battery, both of which are two key consumers for battery-grade lithium carbonate, remains little changed in July compared with the previous quarter. Market sentiment, however, has strengthened due to optimism in demand of lithium iron phosphate (LFP) battery.

LCO batteries are typically used by consumer electronics, while NCM and LFP batteries are used by electric vehicles (EVs) with the latter mostly used by low-end models.

“The market share of LFP battery is likely to increase in China,” a consumer said. “The installation of LFP batteries on EVs has been high recently.”

The installation of LFP batteries on EVs totaled 5.1 gigawatt hour (GWh) in June, up by 13.3% month on month, and 206.4% year on year, according to data from AUTOINFO.

“The momentum of the lithium carbonate complex is driven by technical-grade market,” a second consumer noted. “It is likely the market will repeat what we saw in the first quarter.”

The price for technical-grade units rose quickly between November 2020 and February 2021 on a resurgence of favors for LFP battery, which sent additional support to the battery-grade material price - underpinned mainly by robust demand from its traditional downstream sectors.

Fastmarkets’ price assessment of lithium hydroxide monohydrate, 56.5% LiOH.H2O min, battery grade, spot price range, exw domestic China rose to 97,000-99,000 yuan per tonne on July 22, up by 1,500 yuan per tonne from 95,000-98,000 yuan per tonne one week ago.

Elsewhere in Asia, the seaborne battery-grade lithium prices held firm amid tight availability and China strength.

Fastmarkets’ weekly price assessment of lithium hydroxide monohydrate 56.5% LiOH.H2O min, battery grade, spot price, cif China, Japan & Korea was $14.50-16.50 per kg on Thursday, unchanged from the previous week.

The corresponding assessment of the lithium carbonate 99.5% Li2CO3 min, battery grade, spot price, cif China, Japan & Korea was also flat week on week at $13.50-14.50 per kg.

Europe, US lithium hydroxide grade narrows up
Lithium spot markets in Europe and the US remained steady over the seven days to July 22 in a relatively quiet market in terms of deals concluded, with the lithium hydroxide technical gaining some support.

Fastmarkets’ weekly price assessment for lithium hydroxide monohydrate 56.5% LiOH.H2O min, technical and industrial grade, spot price ddp Europe and US narrowed upward to $15.50-16.50 per kg on Thursday July 22, up 1.5% week on week from $15.00-16.50 per kg a week prior.

Offers below $15.50 per kg were not heard in the market, with some market participants reporting solid demand.

“We see good demand for hydroxide and carbonate as a result of the current material tightness and following gains in China; we are able to sell at profitable levels at the moment and we are not yet seeing a market slowdown due to the summer lull,” a trader in Russia said.

Other market participants, however, reported that the volumes of material required, especially for lithium carbonate technical and industrial grade, have been reduced in Europe over the last week and they heard some offers below the published range.

Deals below the range were not reported directly to Fastmarkets, and producers and traders contacted were reportedly not willing to cut their offers, so the market has remained stable.

Fastmarkets’ weekly price assessment for lithium carbonate 99.5% Li2CO3 min, technical and industrial grades narrowed upward to $15.50-16.50 per kg on July 22, up from $14.00-15.00 per kg at the beginning of July.

The lithium hydroxide monohydrate 56.5% LiOH.H2O min, battery grade, spot price, ddp Europe and US narrowed upward by 1.5% to $16.00-17.00 per kg on July 15, from $15.50-17.00 per kg a week earlier.

Learn more about Fastmarkets’ lithium pricing methodology here, and read the latest lithium price spotlight here.

Fastmarkets’ trade log for battery-grade lithium hydroxide, spot price cif China, Japan & Korea 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

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