GLOBAL LITHIUM WRAP: China’s battery-grade lithium prices drop over 2%, Asian carbonate falls [CORRECTED]
In China, the domestic spot battery-grade lithium carbonate price fell by 2.3% with battery-grade hydroxide prices down by 2.9% on Thursday May 14 while weak downstream demand pressured more producers to lower prices to boost sales and the Asian seaborne lithium carbonate market fell.
- China’s battery-grade lithium carbonate price edged down on unimproved downstream demand.
- China’s lithium hydroxide price fell with lower prices reported over the week.
- China’s industry-grade lithium carbonate market price weaker.
- The Asian lithium-carbonate spot market heard lower prices over the week.
- Europe, US spot market remains slack.
The downtrend in the domestic Chinese battery-grade lithium carbonate spot price continued in the week to May 14 with producers lowering prices further to win orders in a sluggish market. Downstream buyers had no immediate needs, however, and were unwilling to stock more materials on hand, sources said.
Fastmarkets’ weekly price assessment for lithium carbonate, 99.5% Li2CO3 min, battery grade, spot price range exw domestic China was 41,000-44,000 yuan per tonne ($5,776-6,199) on Thursday May 14, down from 42,00-45,000 yuan per tonne from the previous week.
“Lower prices of around 41,000 yuan per tonne for carbonate produced from spodumene are appearing on the spot market, some materials produced from mica are even lower below 40,000 yuan per tonne,” a buyer told Fastmarkets.
“There is talk that China’s lithium producers would like to reduce production to deal with the current oversupply situation, but the key problem is downstream demand showing no improvement,” a second buyer said.
Technical and industrial-grade lithium carbonate prices slipped this week with lower prices reported in the market, sources said.
Fastmarkets assessed the Chinese technical and industrial-grade lithium carbonate spot price at 33,000-37,000 yuan per tonne on Thursday May 14, down by 1,000 yuan per tonne from 34,000-38,000 yuan per tonne a week earlier.
China’s battery-grade lithium hydroxide prices fell this week after a six-week stabilization after an increasing amount of lower prices began appearing amid the slow buying, sources said.
Fastmarkets’ lithium hydroxide monohydrate, 56.5% LiOH.H2O min, battery grade, spot price range exw domestic China was at 48,000-54,000 yuan per tonne on Thursday May 14, down from 50,000-55,000 yuan per tonne from previous week.
“Lower prices of below 50,000 yuan per tonne are becoming more prominent, and our recent purchase was below that level. Micro-grade hydroxide prices are also down at around 56,000-57,000 yuan per tonne this week, from 58,000-60,000 yuan per tonne previously,” a third buyer said.
“Usually, micro-grade hydroxide trades at a 5,000-10,000-yuan-per-tonne premium over Fastmarkets’ [battery-grade] price range,” the buyer added.
Asian seaborne lithium carbonate prices lower
Market participants reported lower prices in the cif China, Japan and Korea battery-grade lithium carbonate spot market after some suppliers became eager to boost sales, while hydroxide prices did not fluctuate significantly.
Fastmarkets assessed the lithium carbonate, 99.5% Li2CO3 min, battery grade, spot price at $6.50-8.50 per kg on a cif China, Japan and Korea basis, down from $7-9 per kg a week ago.
Fastmarkets assessed the seaborne battery-grade lithium hydroxide monohydrate, 56.5% LiOH.H2O min, battery grade, spot price was assessed at $9-10.50 per kg on a cif China, Japan and Korea basis, unchanged from the previous week.
“Lower China product’s spot price are started to be seen in seaborne market recently, and some prices are extremely low even below $6.5/kg for battery-grade carbonate. But other country suppliers which are under long-term or yearly contract, are still at higher level,” a distributor said.
Europe, US markets remain quiet as economy slowly restart
The lithium markets in Europe and the United States remained quiet in the week to Thursday May 14 with very limited spot activity keeping prices in place.
Spot demand for battery and technical-grade lithium compounds remained weak in Europe and the United States while end-consumers are slowly restarting their operations, Fastmarkets heard.
“The market is very quiet, despite the fact that some clients are ‘essential producers’ and, therefore, are operating. The overall economy is down [which has a knock-on effect] on lithium demand. It also depends on the different industrial applications of lithium,” a market participant who is active in the upstream supply chain said.
“We initially thought that the [original equipment manufacturers’ (OEMs)] closure would reduce demand for technical-grade lithium hydroxide, which is used for producing lubricating greases that go into cars,” one market source said. “The lubricating greases sector has remained stable, however, and has not been hugely affected. Yet, other end-use sectors for technical-grade lithium compounds have been greatly affected such as the glass industry or the construction industry.”
Fastmarkets assessed the price of the lithium hydroxide monohydrate 56.5% LiOH.H2O min, technical and industrial grades, spot price ddp Europe and US at $8.50-9.50 per kg on Thursday May 14, unchanged for 13 consecutive weeks. The price has dropped around 10% since the beginning of 2020, Fastmarkets’ historical price assessment data showed.
Fastmarkets assessed the price of the lithium carbonate 99% Li2CO3 min, technical and industrial grades, spot price ddp Europe and US at $6.90-8.10 for nine consecutive weeks. This price has dropped around 19% since the beginning of 2020, data shows.
(In the sixth paragraph after the bullet points, the spot price for technical and industrial-grade lithium carbonate was reported as unchanged when this article was originally published. The price had actually fallen by 1,000 yuan per tonne week on week. This has been corrected.)
Fastmarkets’ trade log for battery-grade lithium carbonate in China for May 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.