GLOBAL LITHIUM WRAP: Chinese markets under pressure from lower end-user demand over summer

Downwards price pressure continues to affect the Chinese domestic lithium market due to quiet buying activity in the traditionally weak summer season, with battery-grade lithium carbonate producers lowering their prices to boost sales and lithium hydroxide prices staying unchanged.

  • Battery-grade lithium carbonate prices softened after producers lowered their prices to boost sales during the typically slow summer period for consumption. 
  • The lithium hydroxide market was flat on slow market activity. 
  • Rest of the world prices were unchanged week on week.

The battery-grade lithium carbonate market remains under downward pressure in the week to Thursday June 27 due to low demand from end consumers who reduce manufacturing during the summer due to extended holidays during the period.

As a result, some lithium carbonate producers started to lower their prices to boost sales, while buyers kept holding back from buying material.

Fastmarkets assessed the Chinese domestic spot battery-grade lithium carbonate price (min 99.5% Li2CO3) at 70,000-75,000 yuan ($10,168-10,894) per tonne on an ex-works basis on Thursday, down by 1.4% from 70,000-77,000 yuan per tonne in the previous week.

“Cathode and battery makers are set to produce less throughout July and August, and this will keep putting pressure on lithium prices,” a downstream buyer told Fastmarkets. “This week, prices moved down due to more producers lowering prices to conclude deals whilst consumers kept holding back on procuring more material due to the lower price expectation in the coming weeks.”

Market participants said the technical and industrial-grade lithium carbonate price (min 99% Li2CO3) could soften in the near term but for the time being prices sat unchanged week on week at 63,000-67,000 yuan per tonne, according to Fastmarkets’ assessment on Thursday.

Demand for battery-grade lithium hydroxide remains sluggish and the price was flat, with negative sentiment weighing on the market.

Fastmarkets’ battery-grade lithium hydroxide monohydrate (min 56.5% LiOH.H2O) spot price was unchanged week on week at 80,000-85,000 yuan per tonne on Thursday. 

“We have spotted some lithium suppliers offering lithium hydroxide at lower price levels than the ones reported by Fastmarkets to boost sales and get cash back, but for the time being the price sits flat for most participants,” a lithium trader told Fastmarkets.

Micronized battery-grade lithium hydroxide continues to trade at a premium price of as high as 90,000 yuan per tonne, 5,000 yuan per tonne above the current top end of Fastmarkets’ hydroxide price range.

Cheap Chinese offers weigh on Asian markets
The seaborne Asian battery-grade lithium carbonate and hydroxide spot market prices held steady within the current price range on lower levels of spot market activity.

Fastmarkets’ battery-grade lithium carbonate (min 99.5% Li2CO3) price stood at $11-12.50 per kg, while the hydroxide (min 56.5% LiOH.H2O) price was unchanged at $14-15 per kg on a cif China, Japan and Korea basis on Thursday. 

“The seaborne Asian market has been very slow but we have received some offers from China at the low end and below Fastmarkets’ current price range,” a distributor told Fastmarkets.

“Prices are currently unchanged but constant lower offer prices from China are set to drag the rest of the Asian price down for both spot and contract,” a second distributor told Fastmarkets.

Flat European, US market
The European and US battery grade lithium carbonate and hydroxide spot market price was also unchanged week on week on slow trading activity despite rumors of lower prices.

Fastmarkets assessed the battery-grade lithium carbonate (min 99.5% Li2CO3) spot price as flat week on week at $11-13 per kg on Thursday, and the lithium hydroxide monohydrate (min 56.5% LiOH.H2O) spot price also unchanged at $14-15 per kg, on a delivered duty-paid basis in Europe and the United States.

“We have seen some lower bids in the market, especially for technical and industrial grade material, and we have heard that some lithium suppliers with material in stock are willing to decrease their prices in order to sell,” a lithium producer told Fastmarkets. “However, the market remains slow and we haven’t seen or concluded any deals this week.”

“No changes in the market this week and everything seems to be stable despite some lower technical and industrial grade material offers in the market,” a trader told Fastmarkets.

Technical and industrial grade lithium carbonate and hydroxide prices are being traded at a discount of $1-2 per kg to the battery-grade prices quoted by Fastmarkets.

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