GLOBAL LITHIUM WRAP: Chinese battery-grade lithium prices softer on thin buying activity

Chinese domestic battery-grade lithium carbonate and hydroxide prices edged down this week in a quiet market, while the seaborne lithium carbonate assessment dropped by 3.8% on material offered at lower levels from China and South America.

  • Battery-grade lithium carbonate and hydroxide prices weakened on thin buying activity.
  • China’s micronized battery-grade lithium hydroxide continues to trade at a premium over standard grade.
  • Lower offer prices combined with a slow market to bring the battery-grade lithium carbonate price cif China, Japan & Korea down on a weekly comparison.
  • European and US spot prices flat, with most consumers covered by long-term contracts.

China’s spot battery-grade lithium carbonate price slipped by 1.3% this week after some producers lowered their offer prices to boost sales in the face of low buying appetite. Downstream consumers remain cautious of making large purchases in anticipation of lower prices in the weeks to come. Instead, only small packages were reported as bought in this pricing session.

Fastmarkets assessed the Chinese domestic spot battery-grade lithium carbonate price (min 99.5% Li2CO3) at 72,000-80,000 yuan ($10,720-11,912) per tonne on Thursday March 14, down 1,000 yuan on each side of the range from 73,000-81,000 yuan per tonne in the previous week.

“We have heard lower prices at 72,000 yuan per tonne for battery-grade carbonate [produced] from brine material whilst carbonate produced from spodumene remains mostly at 74,000-78,000 yuan per tonne,” a trader told Fastmarkets.

“Demand hasn’t showed great improvement in the first quarter of 2019 and it could be that we see lower prices in the following weeks,” the trader added.

Slow market activity due to weak demand has also pushed down the standard battery-grade lithium hydroxide spot market in China.

Fastmarkets’ Chinese battery-grade lithium hydroxide monohydrate (min 56.5% LiOH.H2O) price was at 93,000-98,000 yuan per tonne as of Thursday, down from 95,000-100,000 yuan per tonne last week.

This brings the micronized battery-grade lithium hydroxide price to a premium of 5,000-10,000 yuan per tonne over standard battery-grade. The micronized lithium hydroxide price premium is mainly due to the higher production costs, sources in the market told Fastmarkets.

“Prices for battery-grade lithium hydroxide remain on a downward trend, with lower prices closer to 90,000 yuan per tonne for normal-grade material as some suppliers are eager to sell at lower prices to boost cash flow,” a producer told Fastmarkets.

“Battery-grade micronized hydroxide maintains a premium of 5,000-10,000 yuan per tonne and this material’s price hasn’t fallen yet,” the producer added.

Asian lithium carbonate seaborne price softens
The seaborne cif China, Japan and Korea battery-grade lithium carbonate price softened this week on slow buying activity and lower offering prices.

Fastmarkets’ battery-grade lithium carbonate (min 99.5% Li2CO3) price fell to $11.50-13.50 per kg on Thursday, down 3.8% from $12-14 per kg from previous week.

“We have been seeing a lot of material at $11-12 per kg from Chinese and South American suppliers for battery-grade lithium carbonate,” an Asian seller told Fastmarkets.

“As for battery-grade lithium hydroxide, business remains at $15-17 per kg cif China, Japan and Korea,” the seller added.

Slow market activity despite continued contract price negotiations has kept the Asian seaborne battery-grade lithium hydroxide market price unchanged week on week.

Fastmarkets assessed the battery-grade lithium hydroxide (min 56.5% LiOH.H2O) price as stable week on week at $15-17 per kg on a cif China, Japan and Korea basis.

“We have been discussing different deals and so far don’t expect to sell any material outside the $15-17 per kg price range,” a second producer told Fastmarkets.

Europe, US markets well-supplied
The European and United States spot markets were flat week on week again on muted spot market activity and limited business concluded.

Fastmarkets assessed the battery-grade lithium carbonate (min 99.5% Li2CO3) spot price at $13-15 per kg, and battery-grade lithium hydroxide monohydrate (min 56.5% LiOH.H2O) $15-17 per kg, both unchanged week on week on a duty paid Europe and US basis.

“The battery-grade spot market in Europe and the US has been quite stable week on week with very few inquiries,” a third producer told Fastmarkets.

“We don’t expect much to change in the coming days as most consumers remain supplied by their longer-term contracts with little need to shop for material on a spot basis,” the producer added.

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

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