GLOBAL LITHIUM WRAP: Seaborne Asian hydroxide price softens on buyer reticence; rest of world steady

The cif China, Japan and Korea battery-grade lithium hydroxide price fell by 3.3% in the week to Thursday May 30 due to buyer reluctance at current prices, while the Chinese domestic lithium market held steady, with downstream consumers buying on a hand-to-mouth basis.

  • Seaborne Asian battery grade lithium hydroxide market softens on lower reported prices. 
  • Battery-grade lithium prices in China flat week on week. 
  • Rest of the world prices stable.

The seaborne Asian battery-grade lithium hydroxide price was the only assessment to fall in a week characterized by slow demand.

Fastmarkets assessed the lithium hydroxide monohydrate (min 56.5% LiOH.H2O) price at $14-15 per kg on a cif China, Japan and Korea basis on Thursday, down from $14.50-15.50 per kg the week before. 

“The market is slow and any offer of material above $15 per kg seems quite hard to sell as consumers keep holding back on procuring additional lithium hydroxide,” a trader told Fastmarkets.

“We see the battery-grade lithium hydroxide price as low as $14 per kg, demand is weaker than expected,” a producer told Fastmarkets.

Despite the fall in the battery-grade lithium hydroxide prices, the equivalent lithium carbonate price remained flat this week in a subdued trading week.

Fastmarkets’ battery-grade lithium carbonate (min 99.5% Li2CO3) price cif China, Japan and Korea stood at $11-12.50 per kg. 

Hand-to-mouth buying in China
China’s domestic lithium market was unchanged this week with most reported prices rangebound at the current level. Downstream consumers remain in no hurry to purchase material and are unwilling to build up stocks of lithium compounds. Instead, consumer sources reported purchasing more on a hand-to-mouth basis.

Fastmarkets assessed the Chinese domestic spot battery-grade lithium carbonate price (min 99.5% Li2CO3) at 74,000-78,000 yuan ($10,702-11,281) per tonne on Thursday, unchanged from the previous week. 

“The lithium carbonate market in China remains stable, and we have no plans to adjust our prices in the coming June. Demand remains flat and we are currently supplying mainly our regular customers,” a second producer told Fastmarkets.

The technical and industrial grade lithium carbonate price (min 99% Li2CO3) has also stayed stable week on week with most deals concluded at 65,000-68,000 yuan per tonne.

Used in nickel-rich cathode batteries, the battery-grade lithium hydroxide monohydrate market price was stable week on week with no signs of price movement.

Fastmarkets assessed the battery-grade lithium hydroxide monohydrate (min 56.5% LiOH.H2O) price at 83,000-88,000 yuan per tonne.

The micronized battery-grade lithium hydroxide price was also stable, staying at a 5,000-10,000 yuan per tonne premium to Fastmarkets’ standard batter-grade price range.

“We have been active this week selling our micro grade battery grade lithium hydroxide as high as 94,000 yuan per tonne,” a third lithium producer told Fastmarkets. “Our standard [battery-grade hydroxide] is being sold at 85,000 yuan per tonne.”

European, US prices plateau
After softening a week ago, European and US battery grade lithium carbonate and hydroxide spot market prices stabilized this week. Market participants reported slow trading activity in the region on expectation of lower prices in the coming weeks, following weaker prices in China.

Fastmarkets’ battery-grade lithium carbonate (min 99.5% Li2CO3) spot price was unchanged week on week on Thursday at $11-13 per kg, on a delivered duty-paid basis in Europe and the United States.

The European and US battery-grade lithium hydroxide monohydrate (min 56.5% LiOH.H2O) spot price was also stable week on week at $14-15 per kg on Thursday.

“The European and US markets were stable week on week due to slow trading activity and consumers’ lower price expectations,” a fourth producer told Fastmarkets.

“We couldn’t sell any material this week and customers continue to hold expectations of lower prices”, a fifth producer told Fastmarkets. “The market is set to remain slow in the forthcoming weeks and probably playing catch up with the Asian market.”

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