GLOBAL LITHIUM WRAP: Chinese carbonate sellers drop prices in strained market; Europe, US prices hit 3-year low
The battery-grade lithium carbonate price in China broke its steady streak in the week to Thursday March 5 after producers cut offers to meet cash flow needs, while European and US battery-grade prices fell by over 4% week on week.
- China’s battery-grade lithium carbonate price fell by 2.1% after some deals were reported at lower levels this week.
- European and US battery-grade prices dropped to their lowest levels in three years on a bearish outlook for the markets.
- Japanese and South Korean markets were marked by more remote working in efforts to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus (nCoV-2019) outbreak, but production is unaffected so far.
China’s spot domestic battery-grade lithium carbonate price fell for the first time in 11 weeks on Thursday, reflecting persistently weak demand from the downstream cathode sector.
Market participants reported deals concluded at lower levels after producers lowered their offer prices to secure deals in a quiet market.
Fastmarkets’ weekly price assessment for lithium carbonate, 99.5% Li2CO3 min, battery grade, spot price range exw domestic China was 44,000-50,000 yuan per tonne on Thursday, down from 45,000-51,000 per tonne in the previous week.
“Prices are lower compared with previous weeks. Prices of 44,000-45,000 yuan per tonne were seen for battery-grade carbonate produced from mica. We purchased some,” a buyer told Fastmarkets.
“Battery-grade lithium carbonate prices are soft and under pressure from thin buying appetite. Moreover, some eager producers have started to give lower prices due to tight cash flow, which put more pressure on the prices,” a producer said. “But I think prices will not fall greatly as current prices are already near the bottom.”
Fastmarkets’ lithium hydroxide monohydrate, 56.5% LiOH.H2O min, battery grade, spot price range exw domestic China held firm this week at 52,000-57,000 yuan per tonne on relatively higher transportation costs and positive sentiment for increased downstream demand from the high-nickel ternary sector.
European, US markets drop amid continued lackluster demand
Europe and US lithium carbonate and hydroxide battery grade spot prices hit new lows in the week ended March 5 on sluggish demand and a negative short-term outlook, sources told Fastmarkets.
Fastmarkets’ weekly lithium carbonate 99.5% Li2CO3 min, battery grade, spot price ddp Europe and US was assessed at $9.50-10.50 per kg, down from $10-11 per kg the previous week. This is the lowest in three years, Fastmarkets’ historical data showed.
Fastmarkets’ weekly assessment for the lithium hydroxide monohydrate 56.5% LiOH, H2O min, battery grade, spot price ddp Europe and US was $10.50-11.50 per kg on Thursday, down from $11-12 per kg the previous week.
A number of sources polled by Fastmarkets believe the downside trend could continue in the near term while other sources believe the prices will remain at this level in the coming weeks.
“For the remainder of the first half of the year I believe [lithium] prices will remain in a bearish environment… [I expect] a recovery in prices in the second half of the year,” a Europe-based producer said.
“I see technical grade prices dropping as well in the weeks ahead,” the same producer added.
Asian market rangebound
The cif China, Japan and Korea battery-grade lithium spot market saw limited spot transactions. Most market participants in Japan and South Korea are working remotely due to the spread of the novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) in those countries, although production continues without serious impact so far.
Fastmarkets assessed the lithium carbonate, 99.5% Li2CO3 min, battery grade, spot price at $8-9.50 per kg, and lithium hydroxide monohydrate, 56.5% LiOH.H2O min, battery grade, spot price at $9.50-11 per kg, both on a cif China, Japan and Korea basis, both unchanged week on week.
“We are staying home and telecommuting this week, or running shifts to avoid spreading the virus,” a distributor said. “There have been no shutdowns of production in South Korea yet.”
“Many companies in Japan have begun teleworking, and most are still running their facilities. I feel it has no big impact now. From my point of view, the economy will surely slow down next month,” a second distributor said.
Fastmarkets’ trade log for battery-grade lithium carbonate in China for March 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.