GLOBAL LITHIUM WRAP: Chinese lithium carbonate prices firm on tight supply; hydroxide quotation dips on weak demand

Chinese domestic spot battery-grade lithium carbonate prices moved up slightly on Thursday December 13 on reduced producer stocks near the end of the year whilst lithium hydroxide prices softened week on week on slow demand.

  • Lithium carbonate prices moved slightly up due to lower availability near the end of the year. 
  • Lithium hydroxide prices dropped on slow demand and lower offers from producers who are destocking for year-end. 
  • Chinese technical and industrial grade carbonate prices were unchanged. 
  • Rest-of-world battery-grade prices were stable.

Market participants in China are mostly engaged with contract price negotiations for the first quarter of 2019 and are keeping away from spot market activity for the time being.

This has kept the lithium carbonate market mainly unchanged, except the battery-grade, which has moved up on deals achieved at slightly higher levels over the course of the week.

Spot Chinese ex-works battery-grade lithium carbonate market prices rose by 0.6% week on week after limited producer stocks pushed up prices. But the price rise was capped by continued slow buying activity because most buyers have concluded purchases for 2018 and are planning for next year.

Fastmarkets assessed the Chinese domestic spot battery-grade lithium carbonate price (min 99.5% Li2CO3) at 75,000-83,000 ($10,889-12,050) yuan per tonne on Thursday, compared with 74,000-83,000 last week.

“We haven’t placed any orders recently and are still holding onto stock,” a consumer told Fastmarkets. “We are holding before buying more material on a spot basis as we are currently negotiating some long-term contracts.”

“We have bought material just above the current low end of your price range and would say the bottom of the market is currently just a bit above Fastmarkets’ spot market quotations,” a second consumer told Fastmarkets.

The technical and industrial grade lithium carbonate prices in China have held unchanged week on week at 68,000-70,000 yuan per tonne on Thursday due to reduced production and consumption.

On the battery-grade lithium hydroxide side of the market, the price dropped 4.5% week on week on lower demand and based on deals achieved.

The battery-grade lithium hydroxide monohydrate (min 56.5% LiOH.H2O) price fell to 100,000-110,000 yuan per tonne on Thursday, from 105,000-110,000 yuan per tonne the previous week.

“We have sold material at 100,000 yuan per tonne this week due to the slow consumption,” a Chinese producer told Fastmarkets. “We don’t believe the market will move further down before the end of the year but the market did slide this week.”

Asian seaborne prices steady
Seaborne cif China, Japan and Korea battery-grade lithium carbonate and hydroxide prices were unchanged week on week on thin trading activity while producers and consumers continue to negotiate next year’s contract prices.

Fastmarkets assessed the battery-grade lithium carbonate (min 99.5% Li2CO3) price at $13-15 per kg on Thursday, while the hydroxide (min 56.5% LiOH.H2O) price was at $15-17 per kg on a cif China, Japan and Korea basis, both unchanged from previous week.

“We are mostly negotiating next year’s contract prices and don’t expect much spot market activity until the end of the year,” a distributor told Fastmarkets.

“No variation in prices this week despite our higher offering prices,” a second producer told Fastmarkets. “We anticipate the spot market to remain quite slow on a seaborne basis until January 2019.”

European, US spot prices flat
European and US spot prices are flat week on week on thin trading activity. Similar to in the other markets, producers and consumers are focused on contract price negotiations for next year.

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

The battery-grade lithium hydroxide monohydrate (min 56.5% LiOH.H2O) spot price was unchanged week on week at $15-17 per kg on a delivered duty-paid to Europe and the United States.

“The market remains quite slow, but we achieved spot deals for battery-grade [material into Europe and the US] within Fastmarkets’ lithium price ranges,” a third producer told Fastmarkets.

“We don’t expect much change until the end of the year,” a second distributor told Fastmarkets. “Everyone is more focused on contract price negotiations, so spot is not as hectic as in the summer.”

Fastmarkets’ trade log for battery-grade lithium carbonate in China for December includes all trades, bids and offers reported to Fastmarkets.

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

All lithium carbonate, lithium hydroxide and lithium spodumene prices are available in our Battery Raw Materials Market Tracker. Get a sample of the report here.