GLOBAL LITHIUM WRAP: Chinese carbonate price continues uptrend; bullish producers target Nov rises
China’s battery-grade lithium carbonate price rose for a third consecutive week on Thursday October 29 and producers are targeting higher prices for November amid reducing supply.
- China’s battery-grade lithium carbonate price range narrowed up by another 1,000 yuan per tonne.
- Market participants reported higher prices for Chinese domestic industrial-grade lithium carbonate.
- The battery-grade Chinese lithium hydroxide price fell, further narrowing the premium over carbonate.
- Asian and Europe/US lithium spot markets unchanged week on week.
Fastmarkets’ weekly price assessment for lithium carbonate, 99.5% Li2CO3 min, battery grade, spot price range exw domestic China moved up on the low end of the range for the third week in a row, bringing the price to 40,000-41,000 yuan ($5,980-6,130) per tonne on Thursday, from 39,000-41,000 yuan per tonne in the previous week.
This is the third consecutive move up for the Chinese domestic carbonate price from 37,000-41,000 yuan per tonne on October 8.
Producers are reportedly insisting on high offer prices, with cheap material below 40,000 yuan per tonne hard to find. Producers are bullish for November pricing given improved downstream buying activity and reducing stocks.
“Prices below 40,000 yuan per tonne for battery-grade lithium carbonate are disappearing from the market, and even 40,000 yuan per tonne is a little hard to acquire this week with more deals tending to close at 40,500-41,000 yuan per tonne,” a buyer told Fastmarkets.
“We are aiming to offer at 43,000 yuan per tonne for battery-grade carbonate in November. As downstream buyers placed more orders since September, our spot supply in November is still tight,” a producer said.
“This week most deals were concluded in the range of 40,000-41,000 yuan per tonne. But I think next month’s spot prices may be slightly higher because quite a lot of materials have been booked out for November already,” a second buyer said.
China’s technical and industrial grade lithium carbonate market also maintained a firm trend this week due to continued tight supply and higher offers of 36,000 yuan per tonne or above from brine producers. Fastmarkets assessed the Chinese technical and industrial grade lithium carbonate spot price at 34,000-35,000 yuan per tonne on Thursday. The weekly assessment had risen from 33,000-35,000 yuan per tonne on October 22.
In contrast, the battery-grade lithium hydroxide market fell this week due to continued weak downstream demand, bringing the gap between the hydroxide and carbonate market to 3,000-7,000 yuan from 4,000-7,000 yuan per tonne.
Fastmarkets’ lithium hydroxide monohydrate, 56.5% LiOH.H2O min, battery grade, spot price range exw domestic China was at 43,000-48,000 yuan per tonne on Thursday, down from 43,000-49,000 yuan per tonne in the previous week.
“The price difference between lithium hydroxide and carbonate is gradually narrowing to a small gap, and some cheaper hydroxide materials are even near the same level as carbonate. Downstream demand hasn’t seen a big increase yet for hydroxide, so prices haven’t followed the carbonate upward trend yet,” a second producer said.
Asian seaborne lithium market steady
The cif China, Japan and Korea battery-grade lithium spot market remained flat this week.
Fastmarkets assessed the lithium carbonate, 99.5% Li2CO3 min, battery grade, spot price at $6-7.50 per kg on a cif China, Japan and Korea basis, unchanged since September 17.
The seaborne lithium hydroxide monohydrate, 56.5% LiOH.H2O min, battery grade, spot price, cif China, Japan and Korea was also unchanged at $8.50-9.50 per kg on Thursday.
“Most trades for lithium hydroxide are still seen at $8.50-9.50 per kg for this week, but as we still have stock and haven’t made any new purchases yet,” an Asian buyer said.
Meanwhile, a distributor said there were signs of a demand recovery, which will reduce inventories, “but we think prices will not surge in a large range in the short term.”
The monthly spodumene min 6% Li2O, cif China assessment fell to $360-390 per tonne on Thursday from $370-400 per tonne in September. Market participants reported cheaper prices for the majority of October, although some producers reported increased customer inquiries.
Contract negotiations for annual supply are in progress, according to market sources.
Early signs of recovery in Europe, US lithium spot market
The European and United States battery and technical grade lithium spot prices remained rangebound in the seven days to Thursday, with market participants reporting mixed views on whether prices have already bottomed and fresh increases are expected in the near term.
Meanwhile, negotiations for long-term contracts for the upcoming year continue and sources report contract prices could rise for new contracts and renewals due to more positive sentiment in the market.
Fastmarkets assessed the lithium carbonate 99% Li2CO3 min, technical and industrial grades, spot price ddp Europe and US at $5.80-7 per kg on Thursday. The assessment has remained unchanged for seven consecutive sessions after falling from $6-7.20 per Kg on September 10.
A source in the upstream market based in the region said that he has started to hear prices around $6 per kg depending on volume and that “bullish prices in China are certainly a factor pushing up prices”.
“Battery-grade prices are more stable than technical grade,” the same source said.
Another source active in buying lithium compounds said the Chinese lithium carbonate market seems to have bottomed out while prices in Europe are still dropping.
Fastmarkets’ assessment of lithium carbonate 99.5% Li2CO3 min, battery grade, spot price ddp Europe and US was $7.50-8.50 per kg on October 29, unchanged for three consecutive weeks after dropping from $7.50-8.80 per kg in early October.
The lithium hydroxide technical grade market remained similarly steady over the past seven days.
“The market is quite active at the moment, we’ve seen quite a lot of inquiries… This is good news for us but we see prices steady, we haven’t seen a push up yet,” an upstream source active in Europe said.
“China [prices] are definitely a factor to watch for price movement... at present we are seeing a push upward in contracts, not on the spot market,” the same source added.
Fastmarkets assessed the lithium hydroxide monohydrate 56.5% LiOH.H2O min, technical and industrial grades, spot price ddp Europe and US at $7-8.20 per kg over the past four weeks.
“If you buy from a distributor the price is a bit higher than $7 but if you buy large volumes directly from a producer the price can be lower. The top end price is still achievable for end user depending on the volume of the transaction,” the same upstream source active in Europe said.
A distributor active in the market said that he is starting to se higher prices as there is a shortage of material currently.
The price for lithium hydroxide monohydrate 56.5% LiOH.H2O min, battery grade, spot price ddp Europe and US was $9-10 per kg on Thursday.
Sources agreed that the battery-grade lithium hydroxide spot price for delivery to Europe should hold a premium to the more liquid Seaborne Asia market.
In lithium company news, a filing with the Australian Securities Exchange (ASX) on October 26 announced that spodumene producer Altura Mining had entered receivership, and that Richard Tucker and John Bumbak of advisory and investment firm KordaMentha had been appointed receiver and manager respectively, taking immediate control of all operations.
Sources told Fastmarkets that if Altura’s spodumene facility is put into care and maintenance it would help to address the oversupply in the current market and support price increases.
Spodumene producer Pilbara Minerals has entered a conditional deal to acquire Altura Mining’s lithium project in Western Australia, it said on Wednesday October 28. Sources told Fastmarkets that they expect the news to have a bullish impact on lithium prices if the facility is put into care and maintenance phase.
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.