GLOBAL LITHIUM WRAP: Chinese carbonate price range widens on lower concluded deals

China’s domestic spot battery-grade lithium carbonate prices fell again this week on lower concluded business after buyers secured lower prices, while lithium hydroxide prices held steady on quiet buying activity though lower prices were heard in the spot market.

  • Lithium carbonate prices keep moving down on low trading activity and buyers pushing for lower prices. 
  • Lithium hydroxide prices held steady in quiet conditions, while lower offer prices were heard for material produced from brine. 
  • Prices for battery-grade carbonate produced from brine and technical and industrial grade carbonate remain at low levels due to some producers lowering prices to boost sales. 
  • Seaborne cif China, Japan & South Korea and delivered prices into Europe and the US stabilized on quiet buying despite lower offers reported.

Battery-grade lithium carbonate spot prices continued on the downtrend trend, with more producers agreeing to sell at lower prices due to sluggish business and a pessimistic short-term market outlook.

Meanwhile, some producers with limited stock remain unwilling to lower their prices and insisted on maintaining high offer spot prices.

Metal Bulletin assessed the Chinese domestic spot battery-grade lithium carbonate price (min 99.5% Li2CO3) at 85,000-95,000 yuan ($12,419-13,880) per tonne on Thursday August 23, down from 90,000-95,000 yuan per tonne in the previous week.

“Consumers keep holding back on procuring further material out of fear of further price decrease,” a downstream consumer told Metal Bulletin. “Mainstream prices are in the range of 85,000-90,000 yuan per tonne for battery-grade lithium carbonate and we have heard that big purchases could be at around 80,000 yuan per tonne.”

Prices for technical and industrial grade material produced from brine in the Qinghai region seem to have bottomed out at 75,000-80,000 yuan per tonne, remaining stable over the course of the past two weeks.

However, prices as low as 70,000 yuan per tonne were also heard by some suppliers who were eager to boost sales.

Battery-grade lithium hydroxide prices were unchanged week on week due to subdued demand despite the lower offering prices reported to Metal Bulletin for the hydroxide compounds produced from brine. 

Battery-grade lithium hydroxide monohydrate (min 56.5% LiOH.H2O) prices sat at 115,000-130,000 yuan per tonne on Thursday, unchanged from the previous week, according to Metal Bulletin’s market assessment.

“We have heard of lower prices close to around 110,000 yuan per tonne and even below this level,” a lithium producer told Metal Bulletin. “The material offered at lower prices is mainly produced from brine and some of this material looks to qualify for battery application. Better quality battery-grade lithium hydroxide prices remain as high as 130,000 yuan per tonne.”

Asian seaborne price stabilize
The seaborne cif China, Japan and South Korea battery-grade lithium carbonate market stabilized this week amid consistently lower prices offered from China. 

Metal Bulletin’s battery-grade lithium carbonate (min 99.5% Li2CO3) prices were assessed at $16-18 per kg on Thursday, unchanged from the previous week.

Similarly, battery-grade hydroxide (min 56.5% LiOH.H2O) prices held stable at $19-20 per kg on a cif China, Japan and Korea basis Thursday.

“The market remains quite slow and despite seeing stable prices on a seaborne basis, we have heard of prices offered as low as $15 per kg for both battery-grade lithium carbonate and hydroxide compounds,” a lithium distributor told Metal Bulletin.

“Current higher contract market prices and the availability of Chinese material is pushing smaller producers in China to step into the international market and sell their material in the rest of the world at very competitive prices as low as $14 per kg,” a second lithium producer told Metal Bulletin.

Europe, US prices stable
Europe and United States prices stabilized on Thursday after the dip witnessed at the end of the past week.

Metal Bulletin assessed battery-grade lithium carbonate, min 99.5% Li2CO spot prices at $16-18 per kg on a delivered duty-paid Europe and US basis, unchanged week on week.

Weekly Europe and US battery-grade lithium-hydroxide monohydrate, min 56.5% LiOH.H2O, spot prices were also unchanged at $18.50-20 per kg delivered duty-paid on the same day, according to Metal Bulletin’s assessment.

“The market has been quite stable over the past week in Europe and the US due to the summer holidays,” a second distributor told Metal Bulletin. “Prices have stabilized this week after falling a week ago.”

“The market is quite slow but smaller and medium size Chinese producers are now trying to step into the European market and we have received several offers below $15 per kg, but the market is not yet as low as this level outside China,” a lithium converter told Metal Bulletin.

Metal Bulletin’s trade log for battery-grade lithium carbonate in China for August includes all trades, bids and offers reported to Metal Bulletin.

Learn more about Metal Bulletin’s lithium pricing methodology [LINK 1] 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.