GLOBAL LITHIUM WRAP: Narrowing Chinese carbonate price reflects buyers’ market amid weak downstream markets
The Chinese domestic spot battery-grade lithium carbonate price fell by 1.1% on Thursday April 30 with buyers still reluctant to accept higher prices amid poor downstream consumption.
- China’s battery-grade lithium carbonate price narrowed downward, reflecting buyers’ reluctance to accept higher prices.
- Asian seaborne spot market quiet, keeping prices rangebound.
- Europe, US spot market steady; participants anticipate quiet May.
The domestic Chinese battery grade lithium carbonate spot price softened this week after producers lowered their offer prices in negotiations with downstream buyers. There was no marked increase in market activity ahead of the Labor Day holiday in China (May 1-5). Normally, consumers carry out restocking before holidays to ensure adequate supply to run operations.
Fastmarkets’ weekly price assessment for lithium carbonate, 99.5% Li2CO3 min, battery grade, spot price range exw domestic China was 42,500-45,000 yuan per tonne ($6,014-6,368) on Thursday, down from 42,500-46,000 yuan per tonne in the previous week.
“Higher prices of above 45,000 yuan per tonne are disappearing on the spot market, and more cheaper prices of 43,000 yuan per tonne or even lower started to emerge. But we haven’t placed any orders this week and will watch for [consumer] attitude post-holiday,” a buyer in China told Fastmarkets.
“More offers for battery-grade lithium carbonate produced from spodumene fell to around 43,000 yuan per tonne, and downstream demand has not improved ahead of the holiday,” a producer said.
Moreover, lower prices for technical and industrial grade lithium carbonate from China’s brine producers were seen on the spot market. Fastmarkets assessed the Chinese technical and industrial grade lithium carbonate spot price at 34,000-38,000 yuan per tonne on Thursday, down from 35,000-38,000 yuan per tonne a week ago.
Meanwhile, China’s battery-grade lithium hydroxide price continued to be supported at current levels by producers who have mostly kept their offers unchanged week on week.
Fastmarkets’ lithium hydroxide monohydrate, 56.5% LiOH.H2O min, battery grade, spot price range exw domestic China was at 50,000-55,000 yuan per tonne on Thursday.
Elsewhere, market participants said Asian seaborne prices remained under pressure from weak consumer interest in the final week of April. Both lithium compound prices held this week in the quiet trading environment.
The lithium carbonate, 99.5% Li2CO3 min, battery grade, spot price cif China, Japan and Korea stood at $7-9 per kg, while the battery-grade lithium hydroxide monohydrate, 56.5% LiOH.H2O min, battery grade, spot price cif China, Japan and Korea was unchanged at $9-10.50 per kg.
Covid shutdowns continue to weigh in Europe, US
Demand for battery and technical grade lithium compounds remains weak in Europe and the United States while lockdown measures are still in place to contain the spread of Covid-19.
A Europe-based trader active in the upstream market said inquiries from customers are very few and he expects the whole of May to be a very slow month.
“When it comes to prices though I don’t see much room for them to go any further… any further bearish pressure would be minimal [at this point], at the same time I don’t see prices going up any time soon either,” the trader said.
As a result, lithium carbonate and hydroxide prices were all unchanged in the week to April 30.
Fastmarkets assessed the lithium carbonate 99% Li2CO3 min, technical and industrial grades, spot price ddp Europe and US at $6.90-8.10 per kg on Thursday April 30, unchanged for seven 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 April 30, unchanged week on week but down from $8.90-10.10 per kg on April 16.
Lithium hydroxide monohydrate 56.5% LiOH.H2O min, battery grade, spot price ddp Europe and US was also unchanged at $10.50-11.50 per kg on Thursday, a level it has maintained since the beginning on March.
Meanwhile, the lithium carbonate 99.5% Li2CO3 min, battery grade, contract price ddp Europe and US for April fell by 18.2% to $8.50-9.50 per kg on April 29 from $10-12 per kg in March.
“Contract prices are taking their cues from the spot market,” a source active in the European market said.
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.