GLOBAL LITHIUM WRAP: China price momentum continues to drive up other global markets
Lithium carbonate prices in Europe and the United States as well as the seaborne Asia market rose in the week to Thursday February 4, supported by the continued uptrend in China’s domestic market.
- China’s battery-grade lithium carbonate price increased further, driven by tight spot supply despite thin trade ahead of Lunar New Year.
- The Asian battery-grade lithium carbonate spot price climbed 3.3% due to reducing supply at most global suppliers and bullish Chinese pricing.
- The European, US lithium carbonate price jumped 12.1% against a backdrop of a strong Chinese market and limited supply in the equivalent technical grade market.
Tight battery-grade lithium carbonate spot supply continued to drive the upward trend in the Chinese domestic market this week. Producers insisted on higher offer prices or stopped offering and said they expect the price trend to continue after the Chinese New Year holiday that officially ends on February 17. Spot trading fell during the assessment period because of the holiday and most buyers have opted to hold a watchful attitude of the market in the coming weeks.
Fastmarkets’ weekly price assessment for lithium carbonate, 99.5% Li2CO3 min, battery grade, spot price range exw domestic China was 65,000-70,000 yuan ($10,046-10,819) per tonne on Thursday, up 3.1% from 63,000-68,000 yuan per tonne last week.
“Current offering prices are in a mess in the range of 70,000-80,000 yuan per tonne for battery-grade lithium carbonate on the spot market, but I don’t think there are many deals concluded at such high levels ahead of the holiday. I have no immediate needs before the holiday and will see what the market trend will be after the holiday,” a buyer told Fastmarkets.
“We have already stopped offering for battery-grade lithium carbonate, and in my opinion, I think prices will continue the upward trend post-holiday,” a producer said.
The lithium carbonate 99% Li2CO3 min, technical and industrial grade, spot price range exw domestic China price also surged this week, reaching 63,000-68,000 yuan per tonne on Thursday compared with 60,000-65,000 yuan per tonne a week earlier. Some offers reached as high as 70,000-72,000 yuan per tonne, but spot trades were limited.
The battery-grade lithium hydroxide prices similarly moved up with most producers maintaining higher prices ahead of the holiday, but buyers were in no hurry to restock before the holiday.
“Most prices are around and above 55,000 yuan per tonne for battery-grade lithium hydroxide this week, but spot trades are limited,” a second buyer said.
Fastmarkets’ lithium hydroxide monohydrate, 56.5% LiOH.H2O min, battery grade, spot price range exw domestic China was at 55,000-60,000 yuan per tonne on Thursday, up from 52,000-56,000 previously.
Asian seaborne lithium carbonate price edges up further
Chinese prices supported another move up in the Asian battery-grade lithium carbonate spot price this week. Buyer sources also said global supply is tight but spot buying activities remained thin.
Fastmarkets assessed the lithium carbonate, 99.5% Li2CO3 min, battery grade, spot price at $7-8.50 per kg on a cif China, Japan and Korea basis on Thursday, up from $7-8 per kg a week ago.
“Spot prices for battery-grade lithium carbonate are moving higher as there are basically no spot volumes available from most global suppliers and contract prices are also higher accordingly, following the surging prices in China,” a third buyer said.
There were also higher offers heard in the Asian battery-grade lithium hydroxide market, driven by the uptrend in China, but the spot market was flat overall. Most market participants expected clearer market direction after Chinese market participants return from their holiday.
The lithium hydroxide monohydrate, 56.5% LiOH.H2O min, battery grade, spot price, cif China, Japan and Korea held at $8.50-9.50 per kg on Thursday in a thinly traded market.
EU, US battery-grade carbonate moves up on limited supply
The Europe and US battery-grade lithium carbonate price rose this week, with sources citing surging Chinese prices and limited spot supply of the equivalent technical-grade market.
The lithium carbonate 99.5% Li2CO3 min, battery grade, spot price ddp Europe and US rallied by 12.1% week on week to $8.50-10 per kg on Thursday, after holding steady at $7.50-9 for the previous three weeks.
Sources spoke of scarce spot availability in the technical grade market as a factor driving the lithium complex higher - technical-grade lithium carbonate can be processed to battery-grade.
“Very tight availability of [lithium] carbonate, I am sold out for Q1 and only taking orders for Q2,” An upstream source active in Europe and seaborne Asia said.
“I don’t see the same pressure on battery-grade compounds at the moment, my understanding is that usually technical-grade lithium prices move first and battery-grade follow... so far the differential between the two is tight at less than $2 per kg,” the same source added.
Fastmarkets assessed the lithium carbonate 99% Li2CO3 min, technical and industrial grades, spot price ddp Europe and US at $7-8.50 per kg on Thursday, a level it has held for two consecutive weeks after posting three consecutive weekly price increases between January 7-21.
The lithium hydroxide monohydrate 56.5% LiOH.H2O min, battery grade, spot price ddp Europe and US held steady at $10-11.50 per kg on February 4, unchanged for two consecutive weeks after increasing from $9-11 per kg on January 21.
Similarly, the lithium hydroxide monohydrate 56.5% LiOH.H2O min, technical and industrial grades, spot price ddp Europe and US remained steady for a second consecutive week at $9-10.50 per kg on Thursday.
A source active in Europe and Asia agrees that current price increases are also affected by higher freight rates and shipping disruptions. Severe logistical hurdles continue to affect the main seaborne shipping routes out of China, with prohibitively high container freight costs persisting and recent land transport issues adding to the congestion and delays at ports.
Fastmarkets’ trade log for battery-grade lithium carbonate in China for February 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.