GLOBAL LITHIUM WRAP: Chinese domestic lithium carbonate suppliers lower offers to secure cash ahead of Lunar New Year

China’s domestic spot battery-grade lithium carbonate price weakened on Thursday January 24 after some suppliers sold at lower levels to boost cash flow ahead of the Lunar New Year holiday, while the battery-grade lithium hydroxide price in China and those in the rest of the world were unchanged.

  • Battery-grade lithium carbonate prices edged down on cheaper concluded deals.
  • Lithium hydroxide prices unchanged week on week.
  • Rest of the world prices unchanged on thin market activity.
  • Lithium spodumene down at the end of 2018 on lower carbonate prices in China year on year.

China’s spot battery-grade lithium carbonate market fell 2.5% due to some suppliers selling material at lower prices to boost cash flow ahead of the week-long Lunar New Year holiday on February 4-10.

Most consumers said they were in no hurry to buy lithium compounds ahead of the Lunar New Year holiday due to a suspension of operations for the week and while the transportation of lithium compounds is gradually halted for the same reason.

Fastmarkets assessed the Chinese domestic spot battery-grade lithium carbonate price (min 99.5% Li2CO3) at 73,000-81,000 yuan ($10,745-11,922) per tonne on Thursday, down from 75,000-83,000 yuan per tonne last week.

“There are lower prices for battery-grade lithium carbonate in the spot market as some producers are eager to sell in order to generate cash flow. We purchased lithium carbonate at 72,000-73,000 yuan per tonne this week,” a trader told Fastmarkets.

In contrast, the lithium hydroxide market remained unchanged for the fourth consecutive week, despite a few price indications slightly above and below the current Fastmarkets price range, amid very thin trading activity.

The battery-grade lithium hydroxide monohydrate (min 56.5% LiOH.H2O) price stood at 99,000-109,000 yuan per tonne on Thursday.

“We will stop production at the end of this week and have no plans to purchase more material before the holiday,” a cathode producer said. “We will wait until the end of the Lunar New Year.”

Asian lithium seaborne price at standstill
The cif China, Japan and Korea battery-grade lithium compound prices held steady this week after consumers continued to hold back from placing orders, waiting for clearer price indications next month.

Fastmarkets’ battery-grade lithium carbonate (min 99.5% Li2CO3) price was at $12.50-14.50 per kg, while the hydroxide (min 56.5% LiOH.H2O) price held stable at $15-17 per kg on a cif China, Japan and Korea basis on Thursday.

“We received offering prices at $12-13 per kg from Chinese suppliers, but we haven’t placed any orders for the moment and we will wait for clearer price indications in the coming weeks,” a South Korea buyer said.

“The market is very slow and don’t anticipate much movement in the coming weeks as the majority of suppliers and consumers will be away on holiday,” a second trader told Fastmarkets.

European, US market unchanged
Limited spot activity held European and US spot markets rangebound in the latest pricing session on Thursday.

The battery-grade lithium carbonate (min 99.5% Li2CO3) spot market price on a delivered duty-paid basis to Europe and the United States was unchanged week on week at $13-15 per kg.

Similarly, the lithium hydroxide monohydrate (min 56.5% LiOH.H2O) spot price delivered duty-paid to Europe and the US was unmoving at $15-17 per kg on Thursday.

“The market has been very stable despite several conversations and price negotiations,” a distributor said.

“The year started very slow and we don’t anticipate much activity in the coming weeks due to the current slow demand,” he added.

Spodumene prices
The monthly lithium spodumene min 5-6%, cif China price is now available on Fastmarkets MB, with historical data up to August 2017 available in the pricebook.

Fastmarkets assessed the lithium spodumene price as falling month on month to $600-750 per tonne on December 26 from $650-800 per tonne in November.

Falling lithium carbonate spot prices in China over the course of 2018 were the main cause behind the monthly fall because the lithium carbonate price in China is used as a reference price by lithium spodumene producers and consumers.

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