GLOBAL LITHIUM WRAP: China starts Lunar New Year holiday; global market flat

China’s domestic spot battery-grade lithium carbonate and hydroxide prices were unchanged this week as they have been through January due to thin buying activity, and the market became even quieter in the run-up to the Lunar New Year holidays that started on Friday January 24.

  • Chinese domestic battery-grade lithium compound market was quiet ahead of the Lunar New Year holidays, which started this Friday. 
  • Technical and industrial grade lithium carbonate prices remain under pressure within the current range. 
  • Rest of the world markets steady amid positive sentiment.

China’s battery-grade lithium carbonate and hydroxide spot markets were subdued in the week to Thursday January 23 with most market participants away for the Lunar New Year holiday (January 24-30). There were no new deals concluded and most producers stopped offering this week.

Fastmarkets’ weekly price assessment for lithium carbonate, 99.5% Li2CO3 min, battery grade, spot price range exw domestic China was 45,000-51,000 yuan ($6,487-7,352) per tonne on Thursday, unchanged from the previous week. The price has been stable since December 19, 2019.

“We have stopped offering this week as our company is already on holiday. I will hold a watchful attitude toward the post-holiday market,” a producer told Fastmarkets.

The battery-grade lithium hydroxide monohydrate (min 56.5% LiOH.H2O) price was similarly unchanged at 52,000-57,000 yuan per tonne on Thursday, a level it has maintained since December 5.

The Chinese technical and industrial grade lithium carbonate market also held its price range ahead of the holiday at 38,000-41,000 yuan per tonne on Thursday.

Asian lithium seaborne price at standstill
The cif China, Japan and Korea battery-grade lithium compound prices showed no changes this week.

“The market is very slow and there is not much movement as the majority of suppliers in China are away on holiday,” a distributor said.

Fastmarkets assessed the weekly lithium carbonate, 99.5% Li2CO3 min, battery grade, spot price at $8-9.50 per kg, and lithium hydroxide monohydrate, 56.5% LiOH.H2O min, battery grade, spot price at $9.50-11 per kg, both on a cif China, Japan and Korea basis.

European, US markets steady
The European and United States spot markets saw limited spot activity, keeping prices rangebound at the latest pricing session on Thursday.

Fastmarkets’ weekly assessment for the lithium carbonate 99.5% Li2CO3 min, battery grade, spot price ddp Europe and US remained stable week on week at $10-12.50 per kg.

Similarly, the lithium hydroxide monohydrate 56.5% LiOH.H2O min, battery grade, spot price ddp Europe and US was steady at $12.50-13.50 per kg.

“The market is very flat; it gives us a chance to actually do some business. When the market is dragging lower by $1 every month it puts people off buying, but the curve is much flatter now,” a second producer source told Fastmarkets.

Some market participants noted availability of some cheaper hydroxide parcels in China, but said these were the exception rather than the rule now.

“That’s because they want to sell through their inventory to raise some cash, rather than being indicative of general market weakness as a whole,” the second producer added.

“Pre-Chinese New Year some customers started buying, and it’s been underpinning the market finally,” a distributor said.

In general, during the week there was improved sentiment among market participants with market chatter that prices are near to bottoming out.

“We see prices bottoming out, demand has not improved drastically but consumers are aware that the market is recovering and they don’t have the ability to push prices down anymore,” a producer 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 January 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.