GLOBAL LITHIUM WRAP: Chinese battery-grade lithium carbonate, hydroxide prices soften after Golden Week

Domestic Chinese battery-grade lithium carbonate and hydroxide prices softened on Thursday October 11 due to lower concluded prices after the Golden Week national holiday on October 1-7.

Cheaper lithium compounds produced from brine in China keep dragging spot prices down while suppliers of lithium compounds produced from hard rock are resisting lower bids. 

  • The Chinese lithium carbonate price fell further on lower concluded deals for material produced from brine. 
  • The lithium hydroxide quotation, ex-works China decreased on weak demand. 
  • The cif China, Japan & Korean market remained unchanged week on week. 
  • European and US spot prices were also steady.

Battery-grade lithium carbonate spot market prices in China fell by 5% week on week on Thursday on lower business concluded after the Golden Week national holiday.

Fastmarkets assessed the Chinese domestic spot battery-grade lithium carbonate price (min 99.5% Li2CO3) at 72,000-80,000 yuan ($10,418-11,576) per tonne on Thursday, down from 78,000-82,000 yuan per tonne last week.

The availability of lower priced material produced from brine is weighing on the Chinese spot market, market participants said. Meanwhile, sellers offering lithium compounds produced from hard rock are attempting to counter the market trend.

The market has been more active over the week, with some buyers returning to restock after the national holiday. Although some producers aimed to increase their carbonate prices, most deals were concluded at lower price levels this week.

“Battery-grade lithium carbonate prices are still in a mess with lower and higher prices existing on the spot market. Prices of carbonate produced from brine are much lower and close to 70,000 yuan per tonne,” a producer told Fastmarkets.

“Our lithium carbonate is produced from spodumene and prices are not as low as those produced from brine due to higher production cost,” a second producer told Fastmarkets.

“Demand has picked up after the holiday and we plan to increase our prices by 3,000 yuan per tonne, but currently no deals were concluded at higher prices,” the second producer added.

Technical and industrial grade lithium carbonate prices have held unchanged week on week. Producers and consumers in China told Fastmarkets the market has already reached a bottom.

Technical and industrial grade lithium carbonate min 99% produced from Chinese Qinghai brine region stood at 60,000-70,000 yuan per tonne. Market participants told Fastmarkets prices might move up gradually if supply from Qinghai is reduced during the northern hemisphere winter.

Lithium hydroxide spot prices in China fell by 2.1% week on week on Thursday, pulled down by lower battery-grade lithium carbonate prices and persistent lower offer prices for hydroxide compounds.

But micronized battery-grade lithium hydroxide was said to hold a 10,000 yuan premium above Fastmarkets’ spot price. 

Battery-grade lithium hydroxide monohydrate (min 56.5% LiOH.H2O) prices were assessed at 110,000-120,000 yuan per tonne on Thursday, down from 110,000-125,000 yuan per tonne a week ago, according to Fastmarkets’ market assessment.

“We haven’t achieved any deals this week and we have heard of prices as low as 105,000 yuan per tonne,” a lithium trader told Fastmarkets.

“Our battery-grade lithium hydroxide prices remain within 118,000-120,000 yuan per tonne, but our micronized material can be sold as high as 130,000 yuan per tonne,” a third producer told Fastmarkets.

Asian carbonate seaborne prices stand still
Seaborne cif China, Japan and South Korea battery-grade lithium carbonate and hydroxide prices were unchanged week on week on slow demand.

Fastmarkets assessed the battery-grade lithium carbonate (min 99.5% Li2CO3) price at $14-16 per kg, while the battery-grade lithium hydroxide (min 56.5% LiOH.H2O) price stood at $18-19 per kg on a cif China, Japan and South Korea basis on Thursday, both unchanged from the previous week.

“The market has been quite slow in the Asian seaborne region and we haven’t achieved any sales this week,” a fourth producer told Fastmarkets.

“We expect this region to remain stable in the short term,” the producer added.

Europe, US prices unchanged
European and US prices were unmoved this week on slow market activity and consumer appetite.

Battery-grade lithium carbonate (min 99.5% Li2CO) spot price were assessed at $14-16 per kg and the battery-grade lithium hydroxide monohydrate (min 56.5% LiOH.H2O) at $18-19 per kg, both on a delivered duty-paid basis to Europe and the United States.

“The market has not changed due to slow consumption as everyone is currently negotiating contract prices for 2019,” a fifth producer told Fastmarkets.

“We don’t anticipate much price change within the following days,” the producer added. 

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