GLOBAL LITHIUM WRAP: China’s hydroxide price hits 19-month high amid global price uptrend
China’s domestic battery-grade lithium hydroxide price surged by 19.8% to a 19-month high on Thursday March 4, driven by tight spot supply and higher offering prices from most producers - conditions that have supported bullish market sentiment across the other global regions.
- The ex-works China battery-grade lithium hydroxide price hit a 19-month high after producers offered aggressively in response to limited supply.
- China’s domestic battery-grade lithium carbonate price also rose, supported by continuing shortage in the spot market.
- The rest of the world’s battery-grade lithium spot prices continued in an uptrend with most suppliers insisting on higher prices.
The battery-grade lithium hydroxide price surged this week due to higher offering prices driven by limited availability and the bullish carbonate market.
Spot lithium prices in China broadly increased across the complex with consumers more actively restocking after the Chinese New Year holiday that ended on February 17 amid firm demand from downstream battery producers.
The lithium hydroxide price rally outperformed that of carbonate this week. Lithium hydroxide producers have either made aggressive offers or held back from sales, citing the lag in price movements between hydroxide and carbonate.
The battery-grade lithium carbonate price started on its upward trend in October 2020 due to better demand from downstream buyers than for hydroxide. But with most cheaper hydroxide sold out at the end of 2020 and general improvement in battery market sentiment, the hydroxide market started to show signs of an upward trend from January 2021.
Fastmarkets assessed the lithium hydroxide monohydrate, 56.5% LiOH.H2O min, battery grade, spot price range exw domestic China at 70,000-75,000 yuan ($10,790-11,561) per tonne on Thursday March 4, up by 19.8% from 58,000-63,000 yuan per tonne last week and compared with 41,000-46,000 yuan per tonne at the start of the year. The market is now trading at its highest since August 15, 2019, when it stood in the same range.
China’s battery-grade lithium carbonate price also rose this week on higher offers and tight spot supply. Fastmarkets’ weekly price assessment for lithium carbonate, 99.5% Li2CO3 min, battery grade, spot price range exw domestic China was 82,500-87,500 yuan per tonne on Thursday, up from 75,000-80,000 yuan per tonne a week ago.
“I heard deals have been concluded at around 85,000 yuan per tonne for battery-grade carbonate, and it is quite hard to get any cheaper materials as producers insist on higher prices,” a buyer said.
“Battery producers have delivered robust orders for March and April and demand is better than what we expected late last year,” a consumer said. “That said, we are taking a more cautious approach toward further restocking now until we have a clearer idea of the demand outlook in the late second quarter,” a second buyer told Fastmarkets.
The lithium carbonate 99% Li2CO3 min, technical and industrial grade, spot price range exw domestic China price similarly rose on Thursday to 79,000-81,000 yuan per tonne compared with 70,000-75,000 yuan per tonne a week earlier.
Asian seaborne lithium price uptrend continue
The seaborne Asian battery-grade lithium market continued to move up, supported by the strong uptrend in China’s domestic market.
Fastmarkets assessed the lithium carbonate, 99.5% Li2CO3 min, battery grade, spot price cif China, Japan and Korea at $8-9.50 per kg on Thursday March 4, up from $7.50-9 per week on week.
The lithium hydroxide monohydrate, 56.5% LiOH.H2O min, battery grade, spot price, cif China, Japan and Korea gained 50 cents on both ends of the range to $10-11 per kg on Thursday.
“The Asian seaborne market is following China’s surge, and I see most prices at double digits among most suppliers,” a third buyer said.
“Battery-grade lithium hydroxide offering prices are mostly at around $11 per kg or higher, and for carbonate there is no availability on the spot market with most materials being booked out. I think prices will keep moving up given rising China prices and tight supply,” a distributor said.
Global market strength supports Europe, US spot market
The European and US battery-grade lithium carbonate spot price continued to rise in the seven days to Thursday March 4 on the back of ongoing strength in the global carbonate market and tight supply.
“There is very limited supply and almost no availability. We are sold out completely for Q1 and are only offering for April now,” an upstream Europe-based source said.
Fastmarkets assessed the lithium carbonate 99.5% Li2CO3 min, battery grade, spot price ddp Europe and US at $9.50-11 per kg on Thursday, up from $9-10.50 per kg the previous week.
Tightness in the carbonate market continued to filter through to the hydroxide technical and battery grade segments. Fastmarkets’ assessment for lithium hydroxide monohydrate 56.5% LiOH.H2O min, battery grade, spot price ddp Europe and US stood at $10.50-12 per kg on March 4, up from $10-11.50 per kg where it had held for the previous five weeks.
A Europe-based distributor of carbonate technical grade spoke of very tight availability of material sourced from China with prices as high as $10 per kg on a cif Europe basis.
But for now, the lithium carbonate 99% Li2CO3 min, technical and industrial grades, spot price ddp Europe and US was steady week on week at $8.50-10.50 per kg on Thursday March 4.
Fastmarkets assessed the lithium hydroxide monohydrate 56.5% LiOH.H2O min, technical and industrial grades, spot price ddp Europe and US at $9.50-11.50 per kg on Thursday March 4, up from $9.50-11 per kg a week prior.
Fastmarkets’ trade log for battery-grade lithium carbonate in China for March 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.