GLOBAL LITHIUM WRAP: Lower Chinese carbonate offers push prices down in weak buyers’ market

A flurry of lower offers from eager producers of battery grade lithium carbonate in China found little interest from downstream buyers in the week ended Thursday August 8, causing the price to fall again, while quiet markets in other regions kept assessments unchanged.

  • Chinese battery grade lithium carbonate assessment dropped due to lower prices on the spot market. 
  • Producers lowered technical and industrial-grade carbonate prices to boost sales. 
  • Asian battery grade lithium prices remained soft in a flat market.

China’s domestic battery grade lithium carbonate market continued its downtrend that began in late June, with more producers selling at lower prices to boost sales during the slack consumption season. The carbonate price has now reached as low as 60,000 yuan per tonne on the low end this week.

“The current lithium market is in a mess with extreme low prices seen from some small-sized producers and traders who are eager to sell. We still maintained our price at above 65,000 yuan per tonne this week,” a lithium carbonate producer said.

But buyers anticipate a weak downstream market outlook and are reluctant to conclude deals, a market source told Fastmarkets.

“The lithium carbonate market has continued its downward trend and more producers lowered prices to attract more deals under this sluggish market. We haven’t started to make purchases [because we are worried] about a weaker market,” a cathode maker told Fastmarkets.

As a result, Fastmarkets’ lithium carbonate, 99.5% Li2CO3 min, battery grade, spot price exw domestic China fell by 5.3% week on week to 60,000-65,000 yuan ($8,511-9,220) per tonne on Thursday, from 64,000-68,000 yuan per tonne the previous week.

Technical and industrial grade lithium carbonate prices also decreased week on week. Producers lowered prices to boost sales, but downstream demand did not pick up. Most concluded deals were made at below 60,000 yuan per tonne this week.

Meanwhile, the Chinese domestic battery grade lithium hydroxide market remained soft this week, with buyers expressing no interest in restocking despite low offers.

Fastmarkets’ lithium hydroxide monohydrate, 56.5% LiOH.H2O min, battery grade, exw China, spot price was unchanged week on a week at 70,000-75,000 yuan per tonne on Thursday.

Seaborne Asian lithium prices soft
Market participants in the seaborne Asian battery grade lithium spot market cited sufficient supply and quiet demand as reasons for inactivity this week.

Fastmarkets assessed the lithium carbonate, 99.5% Li2CO3 min, battery grade spot price cif China, Japan and Korea at $10-12 per kg on Thursday. The lithium hydroxide monohydrate, 56.5% LiOH.H2O min, battery grade spot price cif China, Japan and Korea was also steady at $12-14 per kg this week.

Yet a producer said the Asian seaborne market was softer due to weaker Chinese prices, which was weighing on sentiment.

“Continuously falling Chinese prices bring constant pressure to the seaborne Asian market, and more competitive and lower prices are seen as some suppliers are eager to sell,” a producer said.

Stable European, US prices
European and US battery grade lithium carbonate and hydroxide spot prices were unmoved week on week on limited market activity due to traders and consumers being away for the summer holidays in the regions. Prices in China would have to move down further to bring down prices in Europe and the United States, market participants told Fastmarkets.

Fastmarkets’ lithium carbonate 99.5% Li2CO3 min, battery grade, spot price ddp Europe and US stood at $11-13 per kg on Thursday.

The lithium hydroxide monohydrate 56.5% LiOH.H2O min, battery grade, spot price ddp Europe and US was also unchanged at $13-14 per kg.

“The market has been very slow in Europe and US due to the summer holidays,” a lithium producer told Fastmarkets. “we don’t expect much activity in the coming weeks.”

“We are in the middle of contract and spot market negotiations with many of our customers but for now we don’t expect to lower our prices in Europe and the US – we would have to see lower prices in China [before we] see a new price decrease overseas,” a distributor told Fastmarkets.

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