GLOBAL LITHIUM WRAP: Lithium spot prices stable on slow spot market activity; focus on contract negotiations

Domestic Chinese and cif Asia battery-grade lithium prices were stable week on week on Thursday December 6 after consumers continued to hold back on purchases on sufficient stocks and while negotiating next year’s contract prices.

  • The Chinese battery-grade lithium carbonate price was unchanged on thin trading activity. 
  • Battery-grade lithium hydroxide market stabilized after falling the previous week. 
  • Technical and industrial-grade carbonate prices remain firm due to reduced production in the Qinghai region. 
  • Rest of the world prices remained unchanged week on week on limited spot orders amid 2019 contract price negotiations.

The Chinese battery-grade lithium carbonate spot market was quiet this week, with consumers well-stocked with lithium compounds and focused on negotiating 2019 contracts.

Fastmarkets’ assessed the Chinese domestic spot battery-grade lithium carbonate price (min 99.5% Li2CO3) at 74,000-83,000 yuan ($10,757-12,066) per tonne on Thursday, unchanged from the previous week.

“The lithium carbonate market is stable and prices have been unchanged throughout the fourth quarter,” a buyer told Fastmarkets. “We haven’t started purchasing material still because we have enough stock.”

Reduced technical and industrial grade carbonate production from Qinghai region has supported spot prices for this material within the current price range of 68,000-70,000 yuan per tonne on Thursday.

“Lithium producers in Qinghai have reduced their output due to wintery conditions which produces lower evaporation rates in their brine ponds,” a trader told Fastmarkets.

“This is typical from this time of the year and could perhaps start pushing prices up due to reduced availability of material in the spot market,” he added.

Slow domestic Chinese demand and thin market activity have also kept the battery-grade lithium hydroxide price unchanged week on week. 

Fastmarkets assessed the battery-grade lithium hydroxide monohydrate (min 56.5% LiOH.H2O) price at 105,000-115,000 yuan per tonne on Thursday.

“We are currently fulfilling most of our 2018 contracts ending this month and have reduced battery grade lithium hydroxide in stock,” a producer told Fastmarkets.

“The market is very quiet and most companies are currently negotiating their contract prices,” a distributor told Fastmarkets. “This has meant we are not selling any material this week.”

Asian seaborne lithium price stable
Contract price negotiations for next year have subdued the seaborne Asian spot market which has had very limited spot market activity.

This sluggish market has kept both battery-grade lithium carbonate and hydroxide seaborne prices unchanged week on week. 

Fastmarkets assessed the battery-grade lithium carbonate (min 99.5% Li2CO3) price as unchanged week on week at $13-15 per kg on Thursday, while the hydroxide (min 56.5% LiOH.H2O) price was steady at $15-17 per kg on a cif China, Japan and Korea basis. 

“The market has been very stable and we could not conclude any spot deals this week,” a second trader told Fastmarkets.

“The end of the contract price negotiations toward early January will probably reactivate the spot market,” the same trader added.

European, US spot prices unmoved
European and US spot prices were unchanged week on week amid thin trading activity and almost non-existent demand because most producers and consumers were busy negotiating their long-term contracts for 2019.

The battery-grade lithium carbonate spot price (min 99.5% Li2CO3) stood at $13-15 per kg on a delivered duty-paid basis to Europe and the United States.

The price for lithium hydroxide monohydrate (min 56.5% LiOH.H2O) battery-grade material was $15-17 per kg on Thursday on a delivered duty-paid to Europe and the United States.

“We have been mostly negotiating contracts for next year and dispatching end-of-year orders,” a second producer told Fastmarkets.

“Don’t expect much activity in the spot market until the end of the year,” the producer added. 

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