GLOBAL LITHIUM WRAP: Chinese hydroxide market ‘in a mess’ amid lower offer prices, weak demand

The Chinese lithium hydroxide and carbonate price gap has narrowed further in the week to Thursday October 24 after the former assessment dropped over 3% while producers of the latter insisted on current prices.

  • The Chinese battery-grade lithium hydroxide price fell on thin buying activities. 
  • Battery-grade lithium carbonate prices were relatively steady although they remain under downward pressure. 
  • Asian cif China, Japan & Korea markets subdued.

Continuously weak downstream demand from the high-nickel ternary sector was cited for a drop in the battery-grade lithium hydroxide price on Thursday. Market participants reported lower prices from producers eager to sell in a deflated market.

Fastmarkets assessed the lithium hydroxide monohydrate, 56.5% LiOH.H2O min, battery grade, ex-works, spot price at 58,000-63,000 yuan ($8,203-8,911) per tonne on Thursday, down 3.2% from 60,000-65,000 yuan per tonne in the previous week. 

“The battery-grade lithium hydroxide market is in a mess, and lower prices keep appearing as a result of weak demand. Some small-sized producers even sold below 65,000 yuan per tonne for micro-grade to boost sales, although most big producers haven’t lowered their prices below this level for the micro-grade materials,” a buyer told Fastmarkets.

“The price gap between battery-grade lithium carbonate and hydroxide has been narrowed, to nearly the same level due to the weak downstream buying. Currently we are offering 60,000-62,000 yuan per tonne for battery-grade hydroxide,” a producer said.

Fastmarkets’ lithium carbonate, 99.5% Li2CO3 min, battery grade, exw domestic China, spot price was at 56,000-60,000 yuan per tonne on Thursday, unchanged from the previous week.

Although the price did not move week on week, market participants reported slow buying which is putting downward pressure on the price in the short term. Most buyers in the cathode sector are said to be in no hurry to add to stocks already on hand.

“I heard there are lower prices concluded at around 54,000 yuan per tonne, but I think such prices are just isolated cases. We still purchased in the range of 56,000-58,000 yuan per tonne from most producers,” a second buyer said.

There was no change to the technical and industrial-grade lithium carbonate market this week, with most deals concluded in the range of 45,000-48,000 yuan per tonne.

Chinese bearishness weighs on Asian market
The Asian seaborne battery-grade lithium spot market reported limited spot transactions, leaving prices rangebound this week. But market sources predict prices in the region will succumb to price pressure in China to fall “sooner or later.”

Fastmarkets assessed the lithium carbonate, 99.5% Li2CO3 min, battery-grade cif China, Japan and Korea spot price at $9-11 per kg, and the lithium hydroxide monohydrate, 56.5% LiOH.H2O min, battery-grade cif China, Japan and Korea spot price at $11-13 per kg on Thursday.

“As China’s lithium prices keep falling, seaborne Asian spot prices will definitely follow the trend when buyers in Japan and South Korea renew their contracts next year. Prices will decrease sooner or later,” a distributor said.

Sellers hold off in quiet market
European and US spot prices were stable in the weekly assessment, with participants focusing on negotiations for next year.

Fastmarkets assessed the lithium carbonate 99.5% Li2CO3 min, battery grade, spot price ddp Europe and US at $11-13 per kg, unchanged since May 23.

The lithium hydroxide monohydrate 56.5% LiOH.H2O min, battery grade, spot price ddp Europe and US remained steady week on week at $12.50-13.50 per kg on Thursday.

Some industry sources told Fastmarkets earlier this week that producers are retreating from the spot market in response to diminished trading activity.

“Some mayor players are not offering material… they are waiting for other producers to make the first move to see a clearer price direction,” a European trader said.

Learn more about Fastmarkets’ lithium pricing methodology here and read the latest lithium price spotlight here.

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.