GLOBAL LITHIUM WRAP: Chinese technical-industrial grade carbonate price rises on strong demand

The Chinese domestic technical & industrial grade lithium carbonate price edged up in the week to Thursday April 25 on increasing demand and squeezed supply due to maintenance work carried out by some producers in China; other spot lithium prices were steady to lower.

  • Increasing demand alongside routine maintenance at production facilities supported higher Chinese technical and industrial grade lithium prices. 
  • Chinese battery-grade lithium carbonate and hydroxide suppliers resisted lower prices, keeping assessments unchanged this week. 
  • Rest of the world battery-grade lithium spot prices softened week on week.

The Chinese spot technical and industrial grade lithium carbonate price moved up this week on rising demand alongside lower supply due to routine maintenance undertaken by some lithium producers in China.

Fastmarkets assessed the technical & industrial grade lithium carbonate price (min 99% Li2CO3) at 63,500-67,000 yuan ($7,309-7,712) per tonne on Thursday, up from 62,000-67,000 yuan per tonne last week.

Some market participants viewed the upward move in the Chinese technical and industrial grade lithium carbonate spot price as the beginning of a slow recovery in prices.

“Maintenance at some lithium production facilities in China has squeezed supply of technical and industrial grade lithium carbonate and we are seeing producers increasing their prices due to the lower stock of material in their warehouses,” a trader told Fastmarkets.

“Squeezed in supply alongside the improvement in demand could start a trend of slow price improvement in China,” the trader added.

Meanwhile, Chinese spot battery-grade lithium carbonate and hydroxide prices held steady this week after most lithium suppliers held back on selling material at lower prices and insisted on keeping their offer prices toward the top end of Fastmarkets’ price ranges due to an improvement in demand for lithium compounds.

As a result, Fastmarkets’ Chinese domestic spot battery grade lithium carbonate price (min 99.5% Li2CO3) remained at 70,000-78,000 yuan per tonne on Thursday, while the battery-grade lithium hydroxide monohydrate (min 56.5% LiOH.H2O) price was also unchanged at 90,000-95,000 yuan per tonne.

“I have purchased battery-grade lithium carbonate this week at the same price as in past weeks. The market is anticipated to remain unchanged in the following days due to the May Day holiday,” a cathode producer told Fastmarkets.

“We have noticed an improvement in demand over the course of the past days. Might be too soon to say but demand might improve prices slightly in the weeks after May Day holiday,” a lithium supplier told Fastmarkets.

Most Chinese market participants will be away from the spot market to observe the May Day holiday on May 1-4.

Softer seaborne Asian lithium prices
The seaborne cif China, Japan and Korea battery-grade lithium carbonate price fell this week due to lower prices in China where a significant volume of material is being exported overseas. Spot prices in Asia moved down this week to slowly adjust to match the domestic spot market in China.

Fastmarkets’ battery-grade lithium carbonate (min 99.5% Li2CO3) price dropped by 4% to $11-13 per kg on Thursday compared with $11.50-13.50 per kg the week before. 

“The lower prices in China have been pushing down the overseas Asian market over the past few months. This spillover effect has been notorious in past months and is not a coincidence some players in Asia are opting to buy more material on a spot basis to pay cheaper prices,” a battery maker told Fastmarkets.

Although market participants anticipate lower battery-grade lithium hydroxide prices in the seaborne Asia region in the coming weeks due to the lower prices in China, these have remained steady week on week.

Fastmarkets assessed the battery-grade lithium hydroxide (min 56.5% LiOH.H2O) price at $15-16 per kg a cif China, Japan and Korea, unchanged week on week.

“The battery-grade hydroxide prices remain steady due to the lower volumes of this material traded on a spot basis. However, these are set to go down since Chinese material is being offered at quite competitive prices,” a second trader told Fastmarkets.

Lower European and US lithium prices
European and US battery-grade lithium spot prices moved down on Thursday on lower prices offered from China and elsewhere.

Fastmarkets assessed the battery-grade lithium carbonate (min 99.5% Li2CO3) spot price on Thursday at $11.50-13.50 per kg, down from $12-14 per kg a week ago on a delivery duty-paid in Europe and the US basis.

The delivery, duty-paid Europe and US lithium hydroxide (min 56.5% LiOH.H2O) spot price likewise fell to $14.50-15.50 per kg on Thursday, from $15-16 per kg previously.

“We have been selling battery-grade lithium carbonate at lower prices into Europe and US to lock in some sales due to the continuous slow demand in this market. Lower prices offered from China and elsewhere have also helped drag prices down,” a producer told Fastmarkets.

“Our battery-grade lithium hydroxide prices are lower this week due to the competitive prices offered from China,” a second producer told Fastmarkets.

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