GLOBAL LITHIUM WRAP: Tight availability continues to support prices

Persistent tight supply continues to underpin lithium prices in Asia, as well as in Europe and the United States over the week ended Thursday June 24.

  • Lithium carbonate and hydroxide prices in the seaborne Asian market nudged higher due to a combination of aggressive lack of availability.
  • Lithium producers in China held offers firm, while consumers of lithium hydroxide are wary of securing units.
  • Lithium technical-grade availability remains tight in Europe and the United States amid lingering logistic delays, supporting battery-grade assessments.

Lithium prices in the seaborne Asian market made further gains in response to continued tight supply in the region, which are partially the result of the logistics disruptions in the aftermath of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Fastmarkets’ weekly assessment for the lithium hydroxide monohydrate 56.5% LiOH.H2O min, battery grade, spot price cif China, Japan & Korea rose to $14.50-16.00 per kg on Thursday, up by 1.67% from $14-16 per kg previously.

Fastmarkets’ weekly assessment for lithium carbonate, 99.5% Li2CO3 min, battery grade, spot price, cif China, Japan and Korea moved up to $13.50-14.50 per kg during the same pricing session, up by 3.70% from $13-14 in the prior week.

Both suppliers and buyers continued to struggle with logistics delays for materials from South America, market sources told Fastmarkets.

A distributor source noted it was quite often that they were told in the last minute their cargoes could not be shipped out of South America because the vessels were fully loaded.

A consumer source told Fastmarkets one of the leading suppliers from South America might have difficulty in delivering cargoes to China in the third quarter due to a shortage of containers.

Aggressive offers for battery-grade lithium carbonate was reported at around $20 per kg in the seaborne Asian market, while bids for off-grade units were even around $11-12 per kg, according to market sources who expect lithium salts prices to trend higher.

“As long as there are any cargoes that can be allocated to the spot market, suppliers will intend to make high offers,” the first distributor said.

“For lithium hydroxide producers who feed on technical-grade lithium carbonate, they also have to sell higher to keep the margin in light of elevated prices for technical-grade units,” he added.

Fastmarkets’ assessment for the lithium carbonate 99% Li2CO3 min, technical and industrial grades, spot price cif China, Japan & Korea was $12.80-13.30 per kg, up by 2.35% from $12.50-13.00 per kg previously. The price for technical-grade material has risen by 6.3% since the start of June.

Elsewhere in China, lithium prices were steady with producers holding offers firm while demand from the electric vehicle (EV) battery sector remained healthy.

Fastmarkets assessed the lithium carbonate 99.5% Li2CO3 min, battery grade, spot price range exw domestic China as unchanged week on week at 87,000-89,000 yuan ($13,476-13,786) per tonne on June 24.

Fastmarkets’ weekly assessment for the lithium hydroxide monohydrate, 56.5% LiOH.H2O min, battery grade, spot price range, exw domestic China was 95,000-98,000 yuan per tonne on Thursday, unchanged from previously.

Europe, US spot market track global complex higher
Spot lithium prices in Europe and the United States continued to post gains across the board over the seven days to June 24 underpinned by the bullish trend in the more liquid seaborne Asia markets. Market sources also continue to point to tight availability of technical-grade compounds and shipping delays.

Fastmarkets’ assessment for the lithium carbonate 99% Li2CO3 min, technical and industrial grades, spot price ddp Europe and US narrowed upward to $13.50-14.50 per kg on Thursday June 24, from $13.00-14.50 per kg a week prior. The spot price has been moving up for 11 consecutive weeks, Fastmarkets historical data shows.

An upstream refiner and distributor active in Europe and seaborne Asia said that he sold out of his available material for the third quarter and at the moment he is only accepting orders for October onward.

“We struggled to find additional spot material available to fulfill our commitments and had to source spot units from Bolivia and recycled lithium compounds in seaborne Asia,” the same source added.

A second source mentioned that shipping delays are not the fundamental reason for price increases but are creating more nervousness in the market.

The whole lithium spot market moved up over the past seven days and a third source mentioned that pricing for fourth-quarter delivery are expected to be higher: “At least one $1 per kg above current spot prices,” the third source active in Europe said. The same source added that he does not expect the price increase that we are seeing at the moment to be temporary although for the fourth quarter more lithium-brine based output is expected in domestic China.

Battery-grade lithium compounds in Europe and the United States also moved up over the past seven days, tracking strength in technical-grade compounds.

Fastmarkets’ weekly price assessment for lithium carbonate 99.5% Li2CO3 min, battery grade, spot price ddp Europe and US stood at $14.00-15.00 per kg on Thursday, up 1.8% week on week from $13.50-15.00 per kg a week prior.

The corresponding lithium hydroxide monohydrate 56.% LiOH.H2O min, battery grade, spot price ddp Europe and US rose to $15,00-16.50 per kg on the same day, from $14.50-16.00 per kg a week ago.

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 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.

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