GLOBAL LITHIUM WRAP: China’s lithium downtrend continues

Spot prices for lithium in China moved down this week amid ample supply, while the seaborne Asian lithium market also declined with increasingly lower prices reported.

  • The battery-grade lithium carbonate price drifted lower.
  • Technical and industrial-grade carbonate prices remained weak.
  • Lithium hydroxide prices continued their downtrend due to low demand.
  • The Asian battery-grade lithium market fell after lower prices were reported.

China’s domestic battery-grade lithium carbonate prices moved down this week after lower concluded deals were reported on the spot market. Producers, who were eager to sell material, continued lowering their prices to attract more deals.

Fastmarkets last assessed the lithium carbonate, 99.5% Li2CO3 min, battery grade, exw domestic China, spot price at 56,000-61,000 yuan ($7,889-8,593) per tonne on Thursday September 19, down from 58,000-62,000 yuan per tonne the previous week.

“Some producers, especially small-sized ones, who are eager to boost sales, sold at 56,000 yuan per tonne for battery-grade carbonate or even lower than this level. There are also higher prices from big producers in the range of 58,000-61,000 yuan per tonne,” a buyer told Fastmarkets IM.

“Downstream demand from the lithium-iron-phosphate (LFP) sector has grown in recent weeks and I think it will continue growing in the fourth quarter because most downstream buyers prefer to purchase LFP due to its lower cost. Demand from nickel-cobalt-manganese (NCM) battery producers showed no sign of improvement, while lithium prices are still under pressure, resulting from sufficient supply, though demand increased a little,” a producer said.

Technical and industrial-grade lithium carbonate prices remained weak, with offers falling slightly over the week to Thursday September 19. Deals were able to be concluded in the range of 49,000-52,000 yuan per tonne with most at the lower end of the range.

Thin buying continued weighing on the battery-grade lithium hydroxide market, leaving prices to fall further this week. Most prices were at around 60,000 yuan per tonne, with demand remaining quiet.

Fastmarkets last assessed the lithium hydroxide monohydrate, 56.5% LiOH.H2O min, battery grade, ex-works, spot price at 60,000-68,000 yuan per tonne on Thursday September 19, down from 62,000-70,000 yuan per tonne the previous week.

“China’s domestic demand for battery-grade lithium hydroxide hasn’t seen any increase, with lower prices still emerging. I even heard micro-grade lithium hydroxide concluded at around 65,000 yuan per tonne, but ours are still around 68,000-70,000 yuan per tonne for micro-grade,” a second producer said.

Seaborne Asian lithium prices down
The seaborne Asian battery-grade lithium spot market embarked on a downtrend this week with prices moving down.

Fastmarkets last assessed the lithium carbonate, 99.5% Li2CO3 min, battery-grade spot price at $9-11 per kg on a cif China, Japan and Korea basis on Thursday, down from $10-12 per kg week on week, while the lithium hydroxide monohydrate, 56.5% LiOH.H2O min, battery-grade spot price was at $11-13 per kg cif China, Japan and Korea on Thursday, down from $12-13.50 per kg the week before.

“Prices for battery-grade lithium are under downward pressure with a flurry of lower prices. I even heard some lower offering prices from China at around $8 per kg cif Japan for both battery-grade carbonate and hydroxide,” a distributor in Japan said.

European and US spot prices moved sideways
The European and United States’ battery-grade lithium carbonate and lithium hydroxide spot market prices moved sideways week on week on sluggish market activity due to the end of the region’s summer holiday season.

Fastmarkets assessed the lithium carbonate 99.5% Li2CO3 min, battery grade, spot price at $11-13 per kg on Thursday, while the lithium hydroxide monohydrate 56.5% LiOH.H2O min, battery grade, spot price was at $13-14 per kg, both on a ddp Europe and US basis and unchanged from the previous week.

“We sold some lithium carbonate this week but things remain very slow due to the holiday period,” a third lithium producer told Fastmarkets. “Prices will probably remain unchanged in the coming days and we would expect more activity by the end of September.”

“The market remains slow and we believe that it won’t improve in the coming months,” a supplier told Fastmarkets. “Most market participants anticipate a very slow year ahead with low prices amid the current market oversupply.”

“Most producers have material in stock and are finding it difficult to sell their inventories,” a second lithium supplier told Fastmarkets. “We don’t think prices will improve any time soon.”

Global lithium market price

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

Learn more about Fastmarkets’ lithium pricing methodology here 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.