GLOBAL LITHIUM WRAP: China’s lithium prices rangebound after Golden Week holiday

China’s domestic spot battery-grade lithium carbonate prices held steady this week after the Golden Week national holiday on October 1-7, and lithium hydroxide prices were also flat due to a lack of domestic buying.

  • Lithium carbonate price held at current level without any fluctuation post-holiday. 
  • Lithium hydroxide prices maintained at current level on quiet buying. 
  • China, Japan & South Korea market flat. 
  • Low spot liquidity keeps rest of the world’s prices stable. 
  • Market polarized on whether prices have reached a bottom.

Spot battery grade lithium carbonate prices remained rangebound in the first week after the Golden Week national holiday in China, with downstream buyers in no hurry to purchase more material in the expectation that prices will fall.
Fastmarkets’ assessment of the lithium carbonate, 99.5% Li2CO3 min, battery grade, spot price range exw domestic China, was 56,000-61,000 yuan ($7,859-8,560) per tonne on Thursday October 10, unchanged from the previous week.

“As most market participants have just come back from the holiday, the lithium carbonate market has seen limited fluctuations, with most prices stable at current levels,” a downstream buyer told Fastmarkets. “Although some lower prices have been heard, mainstream prices are unchanged at 56,000-58,000 yuan per tonne.”

Technical and industrial-grade lithium carbonate mostly stayed at the low end of 47,000-48.000 yuan per tonne, although lower prices of around 45,000 yuan per tonne or lower also heard.

The battery grade lithium hydroxide market saw no improvements with prices standing still after the holiday on weak downstream demand.

Fastmarkets’ assessment of the lithium hydroxide monohydrate, 56.5% LiOH.H2O min, battery grade, spot price range exw domestic China, was 60,000-68,000 yuan per tonne on October 10, unchanged from the previous week. 

“Mainstream prices for battery grade lithium hydroxide are at around 60,000-63,000 yuan per tonne with no changes after the holiday, with micro-grade at above 65,000 yuan per tonne,” a producer source said. 

“China’s domestic demand is [unlikely] to increase in the short term [and that] will continue putting pressure on prices,” he added. 

Seaborne Asian lithium market quiet
The seaborne battery grade lithium spot market was quiet this week due to lack of downstream buying, with only limited spot transaction reported.

On Thursday, Fastmarkets’ assessment of lithium carbonate, 99.5% Li2CO3 min, battery grade spot prices cif China, Japan & South Korea was unchanged at $9-11 per kg, while the assessment of lithium hydroxide monohydrate, 56.5% LiOH.H2O min, battery grade spot prices cif China, Japan & South Korea was stable at $11-13 per kg.

“As the holiday just passed, there have been no changes in seaborne Asian prices and most buyers will negotiate new contracts at the end of this year,” a second producer source told Fastmarkets. “But the new prices will be much lower.”

European and US spot prices unchanged
Battery-grade lithium carbonate and lithium hydroxide spot market prices in Europe and the United States remained stable amid quiet trading conditions, although some offers were under negotiation.

Fastmarkets’ assessed the lithium carbonate 99.5% Li2CO3 min, battery grade, spot price ddp Europe and US, at $11-13 per kg on Thursday, October 10, while the lithium hydroxide monohydrate 56.5% LiOH.H2O min, battery grade, spot price ddp Europe and US was $12.5-13.5 per kg.

Market participants were split over whether prices could find some support in a typical restocking season. According to some, the recent oversupply is starting to ease allowing them to test slightly higher prices.

“Prices are firming; or at least they have stopped falling [and] we have made offers and are awaiting [a response],” a third producer said.

Most market participants still believe there is sufficient material in the European and US markets and remain sceptical about any price increases because there is no real significant incentive for buyers to purchase significant volumes.

“The market is well-supplied… there is enough material to at least cover Q4 [and] we expect prices to continue at current levels until the end of the year,” a second buyer told Fastmarkets.

Learn more about Fastmarkets’ lithium pricing methodology here and read the latest lithium price spotlight here.

Fastmarkets’ trade log for battery-grade lithium carbonate in China for October 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.