GLOBAL LITHIUM WRAP: Europe, US markets soften; China sentiment remains bullish ahead of public holiday

The European and United States battery-grade lithium spot prices softened on Thursday September 24, while China’s battery-grade lithium carbonate market sentiment remained bullish with more market participants expecting better prices in the fourth quarter.

  • Europe, US lithium spot markets follow earlier Asian market downturn.
  • China’s battery-grade lithium carbonate price stayed firm, supported by high offers from more producers and improved downstream demand.
  • Asian lithium spot prices stabilized after slight falls last week.

Battery-grade lithium spot prices in Europe and the US drifted lower this week on continued subdued demand in key regions. Sources reported that prices are starting to converge with the more competitive seaborne Asia market although the size of the battery-grade market in Europe and the United States remains limited.

Previous losses in the technical-grade complex also pressured lower Europe, US battery-grade lithium prices.

“Battery-grade prices are not moving down as fast as the technical grade ones as there’s less availability on the spot market,” a lithium chemicals converter in Europe said.

Fastmarkets’ lithium carbonate 99.5% Li2CO3 min, battery grade, spot price ddp Europe and US dropped to $7.50-8.80 per kg on Thursday, 1.2% lower than $7.50-9 per kg previously, a level it held for four consecutive weeks.

Similarly, Fastmarkets’ latest assessment of the lithium hydroxide monohydrate 56.5% LiOH.H2O min, battery grade, spot price ddp Europe and US at $9.50-10.50 per kg on Thursday was down 1.2% from $9.75-10.50 per kg previously. Prior to this week’s price drop, the assessment had been unchanged for eight weeks.

Chinese market mostly steady ahead of the holiday
The Chinese spot battery-grade lithium carbonate market remained firm with most producers insisting on higher offers, while there were no significant changes reported to concluded price levels. Most downstream buyers were said to be sufficiently stocked in the past two weeks and were in no hurry to buy more materials before the National Day holiday (October 1-8).

“Lithium producers are insisting on higher prices, and more deals are being seen at 39,500-40,000 yuan per tonne. We already stocked sufficient materials last week ahead of the holiday, and we will keep holding a watchful attitude toward the market post-holiday,” a buyer told Fastmarkets.

Fastmarkets’ weekly price assessment for lithium carbonate, 99.5% Li2CO3 min, battery grade, spot price range exw domestic China was 37,000-41,000 yuan ($5,420-6,006) per tonne on Thursday, unchanged from the previous week. 

Market sentiment remained bullish on expectations of more demand recovery in the fourth quarter. Some market participants believe lithium prices could keep moving up for the rest of this year supported by a better downstream market, while others held a more cautious view for a stable market to the end of 2020.

Two producer sources said they expect demand to be better and that would lead to reduced stocks and higher prices in the December quarter.

Meanwhile, a second buyer said: “Downstream demand performs better in the second half of this year, and supported by improving demand, lithium prices are becoming firm. But I think prices will find it hard to move up in large range, and will mostly be steady for the rest of this year.”

“We are seeing higher offers of 41,000-42,000, but I think such high prices are hard to conclude deals as buyers are unwilling to accept such higher prices for the moment,” a third buyer said.

The corresponding battery-grade lithium hydroxide market did not move significantly ahead of the holiday with prices within the current range due to moderate demand.

Fastmarkets’ lithium hydroxide monohydrate, 56.5% LiOH.H2O min, battery grade, spot price range exw domestic China was at 45,000-51,000 yuan per tonne on Thursday, unchanged from the previous week. 

The cif China, Japan and Korea battery-grade lithium spot market stabilized after a fall last week.

Fastmarkets assessed the lithium carbonate, 99.5% Li2CO3 min, battery grade, spot price at $6 -7.50 per kg on a cif China, Japan and Korea basis on Thursday, unchanged from previous week. 

The seaborne lithium hydroxide monohydrate, 56.5% LiOH.H2O min, battery grade, spot price, cif China, Japan and Korea was also steady this week at $8.50-9.50 per kg.

“I heard deals could concluded between $8.50 and $9 per kg for battery-grade lithium hydroxide in the Asian seaborne market, and some lower offers even heard at $8 per kg, but I am not sure whether we have real deals at such low level for the moment,” a distributor said.

Last week, the seaborne Asia lithium carbonate and hydroxide prices fell by 6.9% and 4.3% respectively.

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 September 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.

Join the lithium industry’s biggest annual networking event – Lithium Supply & Markets – taking place on October 26-28. Find out more here.