GLOBAL LITHIUM WRAP: Some buying activity returns to Chinese market; other regions stagnant

Chinese domestic battery-grade lithium compound prices held in low ground in the week to Thursday August 15, but the pace of decline has slowed after some downstream demand returned.

  • Battery-grade lithium carbonate price stabilizes on downstream demand. 
  • Technical and industrial-grade carbonate prices edge down. 
  • Asian battery-grade lithium prices rangebound but downward pressure persists.

China’s domestic battery-grade lithium carbonate market leveled off this week after continuous declines in the past few weeks. This was attributed to a slight improvement in downstream demand after some cathode makers returned to the market to meet increased production needs compared with July and early August.

Fastmarkets assessed the lithium carbonate, 99.5% Li2CO3 min, battery grade, exw domestic China, spot price at 60,000-65,000 yuan ($8,529-9,240) per tonne on Thursday, unchanged from the previous week.

“Lithium carbonate prices haven’t decreased in a large range this week, [although] lower prices were also heard. Our purchasing prices are a little higher at above 63,000 yuan per tonne,” a cathode maker told Fastmarkets.

“Lower prices of around 60,000 yuan per tonne are heard, but prices below this level are still rare. Downstream demand has improved a little and I think prices will not fall by a lot,” a producer said.

That said, the Chinese technical and industrial grade lithium carbonate price did fall again this week due to a number of deals concluded at around 55,000 yuan per tonne or lower. The technical and industrial grade price fall was a reaction to weaker battery grade prices in the previous week, a supply-side source said.

“Battery grade carbonate prices fell in recent weeks and nearly reached the level of industrial grade, which forced us to lower prices again as buyers are unwilling to accept higher prices [for industrial grade],” a producer said.

Fasmarkets’ Chinese domestic lithium carbonate 99% Li2CO3 min, technical and industrial grade, ex-works, spot price fell to 54,000-58,000 yuan per tonne on Thursday, from 55,000-59,000 yuan per tonne the previous week.

The Chinese battery-grade lithium hydroxide market continued to be sluggish this week and downstream demand was quiet. Although lower offer prices were heard, the assessment was unchanged due to limited transactions with buyers citing no immediate need for material.

The lithium hydroxide monohydrate, 56.5% LiOH.H2O min, battery grade, exw spot price has remained at 70,000-75,000 yuan per tonne since the beginning of August when it fell from 75,000-80,000 yuan per tonne.

Seaborne Asian lithium prices rangebound
The cif Asia battery-grade lithium spot market was also flat week on week with limited deals heard. Market participants told Fastmarkets lithium compound supply was sufficient, while lower Chinese prices continued to put pressure on the market.

Fastmarkets assessed the lithium carbonate, 99.5% Li2CO3 min, battery-grade spot price cif China, Japan and Korea at $10-12 per kg, and the lithium hydroxide monohydrate, 56.5% LiOH.H2O min, battery-grade spot price cif China, Japan and Korea at $12-14 per kg, on Thursday, both unchanged for the third consecutive week.

“China’s lithium prices have moved down further in recent weeks which also [weakened] the seaborne Asian market, and I think prices will still be under downward pressure in the short term,” a producer said.

Summer absences keep US, European markets subdued
European and US spot prices were stable in the weekly assessment, with the absence of trading during the summer holidays a major factor.

Fastmarkets assessed the lithium carbonate 99.5% Li2CO3 min, battery grade, spot price ddp Europe and US at $11-13 per kg, unchanged since May 23.

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

“We haven’t done any battery grade business this week and remain mostly active with technical and industrial grades materials,” a lithium producer told Fastmarkets.

“The market remains flat and we have been mostly negotiating long-term contract prices for the time being,” a second producer told Fastmarkets. “We don’t expect much activity in the coming days due to the summer period.”

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.