GLOBAL LITHIUM WRAP: Chinese producers raise battery-grade lithium carbonate offer prices; seaborne markets quiet

Chinese domestic spot battery-grade lithium carbonate offering prices increased in the week to Thursday October 18, supported by falling producer stocks, but reported concluded deals remained within Fastmarkets’ current price ranges.

  • Chinese lithium carbonate producers increased offer prices, citing reduced inventory. 
  • Domestic lithium hydroxide prices held week on week on low demand. 
  • Asian cif China, Japan & Korean market prices were unchanged at current levels. 
  • Battery-grade lithium hydroxide prices in Europe and the United States softened.

The Chinese spot battery-grade lithium carbonate price stopped sliding this week after most producers started increasing their offers by 5,000-6,000 yuan ($720-865) per tonne due to reduced stocks.

But major consumers in China completed purchases within Fastmarkets’ price range, meaning the assessment was stable week on week.

Fastmarkets assessed the Chinese domestic spot battery-grade lithium carbonate price (min 99.5% Li2CO3) at 72,000-80,000 yuan per tonne on Thursday, based on limited activity within the current price range.

“We increased our offering prices to 85,000 yuan per tonne for battery-grade lithium carbonate as we do not have much material in stock left for the rest of this year,” a producer told Fastmarkets.

“Offering prices for battery-grade lithium carbonate both produced from brine and spodumene are moving up, but we had no intention to place new orders as we have already stocked sufficient material for November,” a buyer said.

Producers in Qinghai increased their offering prices for industrial-grade material as well supported by fewer stocks. Most offers reported from the region were as high as 70,000 yuan per tonne.

Battery-grade lithium hydroxide in China was unchanged due to scarce demand and because micronized material, which is typically more expensive, was heard offered at similar prices to standard battery-grade lithium hydroxide. This dampened sentiment for standard battery-grade material.

The battery-grade lithium hydroxide monohydrate (min 56.5% LiOH.H2O) price stood at 110,000-120,000 yuan per tonne on Thursday, according to Fastmarkets’ market assessment. 

Mainstream consumers and producers told Fastmarkets the lithium compound market could have reached a bottom because it is now entering a period of peak activity in China.

Production of new energy vehicles (NEVs) typically increases during the fourth quarter, while limited availability of lithium compounds typically add upward pressure to Chinese spot market prices.

“We have noted a deceleration within the [downtrend in the] Chinese spot market,” a second consumer told Fastmarkets. “Prices have moved down quite rapidly since the beginning of the year. However, over the past weeks our purchasing prices remained stable and we have started receiving higher offering prices.”

Asian carbonate seaborne prices stagnate
Asian seaborne market remained unchanged on quiet trading activity this week. Most of producers, consumers and traders spoken to by Fastmarkets are focused on contract negotiations for 2019.

“We have been offering material to China, Japan or South Korea, but there has been very limited inquiries as the majority of consumers have held back on procuring material,” a second Chinese producer told Fastmarkets.

“Consumers in the region keep waiting for spot prices to move further down, influenced by the Chinese spot market, before shopping in the spot market or locking new contract prices,” the producer added.

Fastmarkets’ battery-grade lithium carbonate (min 99.5% Li2CO3) price stood unchanged at $14-16 per kg on Thursday, and the hydroxide (min 56.5% LiOH.H2O) price was $18-19 per kg on a cif China, Japan and Korea basis.

Hydroxide Europe, US prices soften
European and US lithium compound spot market was largely unchanged week on week. But the battery-grade lithium hydroxide spot price range widened due to lower price expectations influenced as well by lower Chinese spot market prices.

Fastmarkets’ battery-grade lithium hydroxide monohydrate (min 56.5% LiOH.H2O) spot price range widened downward to $17.20-19 per kg on Thursday from $18-19 per kg the previous week, on a delivered duty-paid basis to Europe and the United States.

“We have started noting in Europe and US the influence of the softer spot prices in China,” a producer told Fastmarkets.

“Prices softened weeks ago and have softened again a bit this week and we wouldn’t be surprised to see all prices above $18 per kg disappearing from the spot market soon,” the producer added.

The battery-grade lithium carbonate (min 99.5% Li2CO) spot price was unchanged week on week on Thursday at $14-16 per kg, on a delivered duty-paid basis to Europe and the United States.

A lack of spot market activity was at the core of the unchanged spot carbonate prices, producers and consumers told to Fastmarkets.

Fastmarkets lithium compound prices

Fastmarkets’ trade log for battery-grade lithium carbonate in China for October 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, hydroxide and spodumene prices are available in our Battery Raw Materials Market Tracker. Get a sample of the report here.