GLOBAL LITHIUM WRAP: Competitive offers from Europe, US drag down seaborne Asia carbonate price

The United States and European lithium carbonate price fell by 2.6% in a market plagued by coronavirus-related shutdowns, with suppliers there turning to the seaborne Asia market to offload stocks.

  • European, US lithium suppliers targeted Asian seaborne market, pulling down an already weak spot carbonate price there. 
  • Chinese domestic prices stabilized, with market focus turning to the latest NEV subsidy policy that includes a slower downward adjustment to subsidy values over the next three years. 
  • Covid-19 shutdowns continue to pressure the Europe, US lithium carbonate battery-grade price, which dropped by 2.6% week on week.

The cif China, Japan and Korea battery-grade lithium carbonate spot market fell further at the low end of the range in the week ended Thursday April 23 following a 5.7% drop last week.

Fastmarkets assessed the lithium carbonate, 99.5% Li2CO3 min, battery grade, spot price cif China, Japan and Korea at $7-9 per kg on Thursday, down from $7.50-9 per kg from a week ago.

Market participants reported lower prices offered on the spot market although market activities remained slow. This was attributed to sellers targeting the Asian market due to even weaker European and US markets, with the increased competition weighing on prices further.

“Cif China prices for qualified battery-grade lithium carbonate are expected at $7 per kg or below because higher prices will be hard to sell into China’s competitive market,” a buyer told Fastmarkets.

The lithium hydroxide monohydrate, 56.5% LiOH.H2O min, battery grade, spot price cif China, Japan and Korea was unchanged this week at $9-10.50 per kg on Thursday.

Europe, US prices drift lower
Weak buying appetite pressured the battery-grade lithium carbonate spot price for Europe and the United States after holding steady for two consecutive weeks.

Fastmarkets assessed the lithium carbonate 99.5% Li2CO3 min, battery grade, spot price ddp Europe and US at $8.90-9.60 per kg on Thursday, down 2.6% from $8.90-10.10 per kg a week ago.

“The European [lithium] market is really quiet at the moment…it is hard to sell on a spot basis [due to current lockdown measures implemented to fight the spread of Covid-19],” a source based in Europe told Fastmarkets.

Another Europe-based source on the supply side said:” the market has been really quiet this week [and there have been] no discussions for longer-term contracts.”

The supplier source added that European factories are either shut or resuming very slowly, which is keeping demand in Europe is down, but demand in the seaborne Asia market could pick up faster.

China’s lithium prices steady but new NEV subsidies policy offers limited support
The domestic Chinese battery-grade lithium carbonate spot price held in the week to April 23 but remains soft amid a lack of improvement in the downstream markets.

Fastmarkets’ weekly price assessment for lithium carbonate, 99.5% Li2CO3 min, battery grade, spot price range exw domestic China was 42,500-46,000 yuan per tonne ($6,004-6,498) on Thursday.

China’s 2020 new energy vehicle (NEV) subsidy policy has been extended to the end of 2022, and will progressive decrease by 10% from 2019 levels in 2020, then 20% in 2021 and 30% in 2022.

Although the cuts to subsidies are less drastic than in 2019, market participants say the new policy will provide limited support to the lithium market.
“I think the subsidies will bring some confidence to the whole market, but it will not have great support on the battery raw materials market as it is hard to stimulate downstream demand significantly, and lithium market still under pressure,” a producer said.

“Battery-grade lithium carbonate prices are still under pressure, and this week I heard lower offering prices of 40,000-41,000 yuan per tonne for materials produced from mica, although carbonate produced from spodumene haven’t reached that low,” a second buyer said.

China’s battery-grade lithium hydroxide price was also rangebound this week, supported by producers who insisted on maintaining offer prices.
Fastmarkets’ lithium hydroxide monohydrate, 56.5% LiOH.H2O min, battery grade, spot price range exw domestic China stood at 50,000-55,000 yuan per tonne on Thursday.

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 April 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.