GLOBAL LITHIUM WRAP: Weak demand, ample stocks take toll on Chinese battery-grade hydroxide price

The Chinese domestic battery-grade lithium hydroxide price dropped by more than 5% week on week due to ample stocks and buyer reticence, while there was good demand for technical and industrial grade carbonate from lithium manganese oxide (LMO) and lithium iron phosphate (LFP) battery manufacturers, supporting the price in the latest pricing session.

  • The lithium hydroxide market moved down in China on a combination of weak demand and good availability of material. 
  • Good demand and low stocks pushed up the technical and industrial grade lithium carbonate price. 
  • Battery-grade lithium carbonate prices were stable in China. 
  • Rest-of-world prices were unchanged week on week.

The Chinese domestic battery-grade lithium carbonate market was unchanged on Thursday May 9 due to a slow trading activity while the lithium hydroxide spot price dropped week on week, weighed down by ample stocks at hand and low demand.

Fastmarkets assessed the Chinese domestic spot battery-grade lithium carbonate price (min 99.5% Li2CO3) at 70,000-78,000 yuan ($10,270-11,444) per tonne on Thursday, unchanged from the previous week. 

“Battery-grade lithium carbonate prices remained flat week on week after the May Day holiday [on May 1-4]. There is sufficient material in the market and it would be hard to see prices moving up or down any time soon,” a cathode producer told Fastmarkets.

Although some stability was reported in the carbonate market this week, the battery-grade lithium hydroxide market fell by 5.4% amid weak fundamentals.

Market participants were of the consensus that lithium hydroxide spot consumption in China was decelerating due to weak end-user demand from some battery makers who produce nickel-rich batteries, such as nickel manganese cobalt (NCM 811), which typically use lithium hydroxide.

Fastmarkets’ battery-grade lithium hydroxide monohydrate (min 56.5% LiOH.H2O) price fell to 85,000-90,000 yuan per tonne on Thursday, from 90,000-95,000 yuan per tonne last week. 

“Battery-grade lithium hydroxide prices moved down week on week as some suppliers [lowered their offer prices] to boost sales due to the current slow demand,” a trader said.

“Adoption and production of nickel-rich batteries, such as NCM 811, have been disappointing and this has decelerated the consumption of lithium hydroxide in the Chinese spot market,” a lithium producer told Fastmarkets.

On the other hand, strong demand from lithium manganese oxide (LMO) and lithium iron phosphate (LFP) battery manufacturers alongside depleted technical and industrial grade lithium carbonate stocks in the Chinese spot market has boosted domestic spot prices this week.

Less sensitive to lithium carbonate impurities, LMO and LFP manufacturers in China often purchase technical-grade carbonate for these types of batteries.

Fastmarkets assessed the Chinese technical and industrial grade lithium carbonate spot price at 63,500-68,000 yuan per tonne on Thursday, up from 63,500-67,000 yuan per tonne a week ago.

“Some of the top battery manufacturers in China are increasing their production capacity of LFP and LMO batteries which are currently in high demand,” a second lithium producer told Fastmarkets.

“Some of these LFP and LMO producers can also use technical and industrial grade lithium carbonate,” the producer added.

Asian lithium seaborne price rangebound
The seaborne cif China, Japan and South Korea battery-grade lithium spot market held steady this week on little spot trading activity.

Fastmarkets assessed the battery-grade lithium carbonate (min 99.5% Li2CO3) spot price at $11-13 per kg, and lithium hydroxide monohydrate (min 56.5% LiOH.H2O) spot price at $15-16 per kg both on a cif China, Japan and Korea basis and unchanged from the previous week.

“The seaborne cif China, Japan and Korean spot markets remained quite stable week on week because most market participants remain pegged to their contract prices,” a third lithium producer told Fastmarkets.

“We don’t expect much price movement in the coming days, activity has been very slow,” the producer added.

European, US prices flat
European and US battery grade lithium spot prices were flat week on week in a quiet market.

Fastmarkets’ battery-grade lithium carbonate (min 99.5% Li2CO3) spot price stood at $11.50-13.50 per kg while the lithium hydroxide monohydrate (min 56.5% LiOH.H2O) price was at $14.50-15.50 per kg on Thursday, both on a delivered duty-paid in Europe and the US basis.

“The market has been very slow this week and most costumers remain well supplied on a contract basis,” a second trader told Fastmarkets.

“The global market excluding China has been quite slow, and we don’t anticipate much happening in the coming weeks,” the trader added.

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.