GLOBAL LITHIUM WRAP: Chinese battery-grade prices stabilize, rest of the world prices soften

China’s domestic lithium spot market stabilized in the week ended Thursday March 21 after price dips a week ago, while assessments in the seaborne markets weakened on low demand and thin trading activity.

  • China’s battery-grade lithium carbonate and hydroxide prices were steady after slight price decreases last week.
  • Lithium prices in China remain under downward pressure due to continued low demand.
  • Asian seaborne battery-grade carbonate price remained steady, while the hydroxide price moved down.
  • European and US prices fell week on week.

China’s spot battery-grade lithium carbonate market stabilized on Thursday after witnessing a slight price decrease last week. Producers have held their offer prices unchanged despite continuous low demand and negative market sentiment.

Fastmarkets assessed the Chinese domestic spot battery-grade lithium carbonate price (min 99.5% Li2CO3) at 72,000-80,000 yuan ($10,764-11,960) per tonne on Thursday, unchanged from the previous week.

“Battery-grade carbonate prices were stable this week. The price differential between lithium compounds produced from brine and hard rock persists; brine material remains cheaper at a price as low as 72,000 yuan per tonne, while hard rock material is at least 74,000 yuan per tonne,” a buyer told Fastmarkets.

Meanwhile, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang recently announced the government’s intention to reduce the value-added tax by 3 percentage points to 13% from April 1. Market participants spoken to by Fastmarkets expect the lower VAT to place downward pressure on prices from April onwards, but said it has not affected the market price in China so far.

“Lithium market held steady this week, and we haven’t adjusted prices. Some downstream customers keep pressing down the target price and expect lower prices as China’s value-added tax will fall from 16% to 13% from April 1 this year,” a producer told Fastmarkets.

The battery-grade lithium hydroxide market was also stable week on week, despite downward pressure due to continued slow buying activity. Fastmarkets’ battery-grade lithium hydroxide monohydrate (min 56.5% LiOH.H2O) price stood at 93,000-98,000 yuan per tonne on Thursday.

Hard rock material continues to trade at the top end of current Fastmarkets price range while brine material is selling at the bottom of the price range, according to a Chinese trader.

Asian lithium hydroxide prices down, carbonate steady
The seaborne cif China, Japan and Korea battery-grade lithium carbonate price held stable week on week while the lithium hydroxide price narrowed downward on weak consumer demand and low trading activity.

Fastmarkets’ battery-grade lithium carbonate (min 99.5% Li2CO3) price was $11.50-13.50 per kg on Thursday, unchanged from the previous week. The lithium hydroxide monohydrate (min 56.5% LiOH.H2O) price fell to $15-16.50 per kg on a cif China, Japan and Korea basis on Thursday, down by 50 cents on the high end of the range from $15-17 per kg previously.

Europe, US market down week on week
The European and United States spot prices also fell this week in quiet market conditions, although sources say the markets are close to their price floor.

Fastmarkets assessed the battery-grade lithium carbonate (min 99.5% Li2CO3) spot price lower week on week at $12-14 per kg on Thursday from $13-15 per kg, on a duty-paid Europe and US basis.

The battery-grade lithium hydroxide monohydrate (min 56.5% LiOH.H2O) price was weaker week on week at $15-16.50 per kg on a duty paid Europe and US basis in Thursday’s pricing session compared with $15-17 per kg previously.

“We have been offering lower prices week on week due to current scarce demand,” a second producer told Fastmarkets.

“Negative price sentiment lingers in the global market, but it could be that we are already at or very close from the bottom price,” 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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