GLOBAL LITHIUM WRAP: China’s battery-grade lithium carbonate prices extend loss

China’s domestic spot battery-grade lithium carbonate price continued to fall this week because of lower offers from producers that were eager to sell.

Downstream buyers showed no interest in restocking before the Mid-Autumn Festival holiday on September 22-24. Meanwhile, lithium hydroxide prices were unchanged in the latest weekly pricing session, with limited spot deals reported. 

  • Lithium carbonate prices continue lower in on thin buying activity and lower offers from producers 
  • Lithium hydroxide prices unchanged amid sluggish demand 
  • Additional downward pressure coming from battery-grade and technical & industrial lithium carbonate prices produced from brine still available at low prices 
  • Lithium carbonate prices fell slightly in Europe and United States

The lithium carbonate spot price fell further in China week on week, reflecting the negative short-term outlook, rising inventories and limited trading.

Some battery grade lithium carbonate prices were reported below 80,000 yuan per tonne even for material produced from spodumene.

Metal Bulletin assessed the Chinese domestic spot battery-grade lithium carbonate price (min 99.5% Li2CO3) at 78,000-82,000 yuan ($11,379-11,962) per tonne on Thursday September 20, down from 80,000-85,000 yuan per tonne in the previous week.

“Lithium carbonate prices remain on the downtrend this week and lower prices of 75,000-78,000 yuan per tonne for carbonate produced from spodumene were also seen in the market,” a consumer told Metal Bulletin.

“Most downstream buyers are still unwilling to stock more material for fear of further price decreases but we plan to purchase again after the Mid-Autumn holiday or the National Day holiday,” the consumer added.

Qinghai technical and industrial grade material produced from brine remained at a low price of 60,000-65,000 yuan per tonne due to thin demand before the holiday.

Battery-grade lithium hydroxide prices stayed flat this week due to the lack of new sales because of caution among buyers who had no immediate need to procure material.

The battery-grade lithium hydroxide monohydrate (min 56.5% LiOH.H2O) price of 110,000-130,000 yuan per tonne on Thursday was unchanged.

“Higher purity and micronized battery grade hydroxide material remained as high as 130,000 yuan per tonne while the lower purity and non-micronized material was as low as 110,000 yuan per tonne,” a second producer told Metal Bulletin.

Asian carbonate seaborne price drifts lower
The cif China, Japan and Korea battery-grade lithium carbonate price fell in line with the steady drop in prices in China.

Metal Bulletin’s battery-grade lithium carbonate (min 99.5% Li2CO3) price at $15-17.5 per kg was down from $15.5-17.5 per kg on Thursday.

But the battery-grade lithium hydroxide (min 56.5% LiOH.H2O) price held week on week at $19-20 per kg on a cif China, Japan and Korea basis on Thursday.

This was due to better resilience to price volatility because of the lower volume of units produced and sold on a spot basis.

“The market remains slow and we had to lower our price offers to try achieving some sales; however, battery grade lithium carbonate consumers show little appetite,” a distributor told Metal Bulletin.

“The battery grade lithium hydroxide market has been quite calm in the cif China, Japan and Korean area and despite having offers in the market we have not received any feedback from consumers,” a third producer told Metal Bulletin.

Lithium carbonate prices down in Europe and US
Lithium carbonate prices in Europe and US moved slightly lower, pressured by offers of cheaper material from China in the region.

Metal Bulletin assessed the price of battery-grade lithium carbonate (min 99.5% Li2CO) at $15.5-18 per kg delivered duty-paid to Europe and the United States on Thursday, down from $16-18 per kg a week earlier.

Meanwhile, the price of technical and industrial grade carbonate material moved down to $14.5-17 per kg from $15-17 per kg.

“Our offering prices have gone down in the European and US spot markets due to the lack of appetite and the lower offering prices from China in the region,” a distributor told Metal Bulletin.

“Contract prices will remain at higher levels but we wouldn’t be surprised to see the spot market moving below the new contract prices for 2019,” the distributor added.

Thin buying activity kept the battery grade lithium hydroxide price unchanged week on week.

Metal Bulletin assessed the battery-grade lithium hydroxide monohydrate (min 56.5% LiOH.H2O) price on Thursday at an unchanged $18.50-20 per kg on a delivered duty-paid to Europe and the US.

“This remains quite a small spot market in Europe and the US and wouldn’t sell anything below $18.50 per kg for the time being,” a producer told Metal Bulletin.

Metal Bulletin’s trade log for battery-grade lithium carbonate in China for September includes all 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.