GLOBAL LITHIUM WRAP: China’s battery-grade lithium carbonate prices stable; year-end lull keeps ROW markets subdued

Chinese domestic spot battery-grade lithium carbonate prices held steady this week with most producers still negotiating next year’s spodumene prices, prices in other regions were subdued in quiet end-of-year conditions.

  • Battery-grade lithium carbonate prices were steady at year-end. 
  • Lithium hydroxide buyers cited sufficient spot supply as the reason for staying out of the market. 
  • Industrial-grade carbonate prices were rangebound at current levels in the Qinghai region. 
  • Cif China, Japan and Korea market prices stood still on low buying liquidity. 
  • Lithium prices unchanged in Europe and the United States due to participants retreating ahead of the Christmas and New Year holidays.

China’s spot battery-grade lithium carbonate market was steady week on week. Producers are focused on finalizing negotiations for prices of lithium raw material spodumene with miners and insisted on the current price range. Meanwhile, downstream buyers were in no hurry to place new orders because they still have stocks on hand.

As a result, Fastmarkets’ Chinese domestic spot battery-grade lithium carbonate price (min 99.5% Li2CO3) remained at 75,000-83,000 yuan ($10,885-12,046) per tonne on Thursday December 20.

“I purchased last week, so have no plan to buy materials again this week. I am still receiving offering prices at around 76,000 yuan per tonne for battery-grade lithium carbonate, and I will hold a watchful stance on next year’s prices,” a buyer told Fastmarkets.

Meanwhile, industrial-grade lithium carbonate prices were firm at 68,000-70,000 yuan per tonne on concluded deals. Producers in Qinghai maintained offer prices at current levels due to lower stock during the winter season when production falls on unfavorable weather conditions.

Battery-grade lithium hydroxide prices were unchanged week on week on Thursday with a downward bias due to adequate supply on the spot market and muted buying interest from downstream buyers.

The battery-grade lithium hydroxide monohydrate (min 56.5% LiOH.H2O) price was 100,000-110,000 yuan per tonne on Thursday.

“Lithium hydroxide prices remain soft this week and I heard there are lower concluded prices in the range of 100,000-110,000 yuan per tonne for micro-grade hydroxide,” a producer said.

Asian carbonate seaborne price unchanged
Cif China, Japan and Korea battery-grade lithium compound prices were unchanged this week due to quiet spot activity. Most buyers are out of the spot market because contract negotiations are continuing.

Fastmarkets assessed the battery-grade lithium carbonate (min 99.5% Li2CO3) price at $13-15 per kg, while the hydroxide (min 56.5% LiOH.H2O) price was stable at $15-17 per kg on a cif China, Japan and Korea basis on Thursday.

“We are talking with suppliers about contracts next year but haven’t reached fixed prices yet. Most offering prices are in the range of 13-15 per kg for battery-grade carbonate,” a South Korea market participant said.

European, US prices unchanged before holidays
In Europe and the United States, the lithium spot market remained flat in quiet conditions. Buyers said they have limited interest in restocking materials before the Christmas and New Year holidays.

The battery-grade lithium carbonate price was at $13-15 per kg, unchanged from last week, on a delivered duty-paid basis to Europe and the United States.

Meanwhile, Fastmarkets’ battery-grade lithium hydroxide monohydrate (min 56.5% LiOH.H2O) spot price range held at $15-17 per kg on Thursday on a delivered duty-paid basis to Europe and the US.

Fastmarkets’ trade log for battery-grade lithium carbonate in China for December includes all trades, bids and offers reported to Fastmarkets.

Learn more about Fastmarkets’ 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.