GLOBAL LITHIUM WRAP: China’s lithium prices continue to fall on quiet trade

China’s domestic spot battery-grade lithium carbonate prices remain under downward pressure this week, with fewer suppliers making higher offers.

Lithium hydroxide prices decreased on new concluded deals but limited transactions, while lithium carbonate prices moved down in the rest of the world.
  • Lithium carbonate and hydroxide prices fell week on week due to sluggish demand from downstream buyers.
  • Lower technical and industrial-grade carbonate and hydroxide-lithium compound spot prices are the major factors for the lower battery-grade prices this week.
  • Downstream consumers have started purchasing more material on a spot basis to avoid paying the premium prices, on a contract basis, suggested by suppliers amid the current downward price trend.
  • Lithium carbonate spot prices fell in the rest of the world due to slow demand and cheaper Chinese material available in the global spot market. 
  • The battery-grade lithium carbonate spot market prices in China have remained under pressure as a result of sporadic downstream buying activity while most consumers remain hesitant to place orders due to fear of further price decrease amid the current negative market price outlook. 
Metal Bulletin last assessed the Chinese domestic spot battery-grade lithium carbonate price (min 99.5% Li2CO3) at 94,000-100,000 yuan ($13,758-14,636) per tonne on Thursday 9 August, down from 94,000-102,000 yuan per tonne the previous week.

“Lithium carbonate prices keep falling week on week and have done at a faster pace in the last two weeks owing to thin buying activity,” a lithium producer told Metal Bulletin. “Our customers are unwilling to place long-term contracts due to the current continuous price decrease, and prefer to purchase materials on a weekly and monthly basis.”

Technical and industrial-grade lithium carbonate (min 99% Li2CO3) spot prices in China have also decreased week on week due to the cheaper material made available from brine production in the Qinghai region.

Metal Bulletin last assessed the technical and industrial-grade lithium carbonate market price at 75,000-80,000 yuan per tonne on August 9, down from 80,000-85,000 yuan per tonne the week before.

“The technical, industrial and battery-grade lithium carbonate produced from brine in the region of Qinghai has been dragging the carbonate prices down due to the much lower production costs than producing lithium carbonate from hard rock, therefore, its available in the spot market at a cheaper price,” a consumer told Metal Bulletin.

Amid this depressed consumption scenario, with downstream consumers holding back on further purchases and lower prices in the market, battery-grade lithium hydroxide prices decreased week on week.

Lower technical and industrial-grade lithium hydroxide spot prices are also a major factor behind the price decrease in the lithium-hydroxide compounds market in China this week.

Battery-grade lithium hydroxide monohydrate (min 56.5% LiOH.H2O) prices were assessed at 115,000-130,000 yuan per tonne on Thursday August 9, down from 125,000-135,000 yuan per tonne the previous week, according to Metal Bulletin’s market assessment.

Technical and industrial-grade lithium hydroxide monohydrate (min 56.5% LiOH.H2O) prices were also assessed with a lower price week on week at 111,500-121,500 yuan per tonne from 115,000-125,000 yuan per tonne on Thursday August 9.

“Lithium hydroxide prices in China have a current wide price range as old producers are selling micronized material with a lower set of impurities and keep offering material above 130,000 yuan per tonne,” a second producer told Metal Bulletin.

“However, smaller battery-grade lithium hydroxide producers can place material [typically with higher set of impurities] in the market for use in the battery industry as low as 115,000 yuan per tonne,” the producer added. “Combine that with the fact that technical and industrial-grade prices are being sold close to 110,000 yuan per tonne, this is increasing the pressure for lower lithium hydroxide prices in the spot market,” the producer added.

Seaborne carbonate prices down
Lower lithium carbonate prices in the Chinese domestic market over the course of the past month, slow consumption and cheaper Chinese material available in the international market have pushed the lithium-carbonate seaborne market down this week.

Metal Bulletin assessed the price of battery-grade lithium carbonate (min 99.5% Li2CO3) cif China, Japan and South Korea at $16.50-18.50 per kg on Thursday August 9 from $17-19 per kg the week before.

“Lower Chinese domestic prices have been pushing down the rest of the world market as offers in the international market are as low as $16.50 per kg, whereas technical and industrial-grade material is just a dollar below this price,” a third producer told Metal Bulletin.

Despite the lower battery-grade lithium carbonate prices, the battery-grade lithium hydroxide monohydrate (min 56.5% LiOH.H2O) spot prices were assessed at $19-20 per kg on a cif China, Japan and South Korea basis on Thursday August 9, unchanged due to lack of spot activity.

European, US prices carbonate prices down

The European and US spot prices for battery-grade lithium carbonate compounds fell week on week on slow activity and lower global spot prices.

Metal Bulletin assessed prices for battery-grade lithium carbonate, min 99.5% Li2CO3 at $17-18.50 per kg, ddp Europe and US on Thursday August 9 from $17-19 per kg last week.

“The European market has been so slow that we had to decrease our prices and are now offering our material as low as $17 per kg,” a distributor told Metal Bulletin. “Prices, globally speaking, are already below $17 per kg and we would be surprised if prices in Europe and the US don’t fall soon.”

Moreover, despite the descending market trend in the global lithium market, lithium-hydroxide monohydrate, min 56.5% LiOH H2O, spot prices were assessed at $18.50-20 per kg, ddp Europe and US, on Thursday August 9 also stable on a lack of activity.

Global lithium market prices

Metal Bulletin’s trade log for battery-grade lithium carbonate in China for August includes all trades, bids and offers reported to Metal Bulletin.

Learn more about Metal Bulletin's lithium pricing methodology 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.

Martim Facada

martim.facada@indmin.com

Carrie Shi

Carrie.shi@indmin.com

Published

Martim Facada

Carrie Shi

August 10, 2018

13:00 GMT

Shanghai