GLOBAL LITHIUM WRAP: Lunar New Year slowdown restricts price movements; seaborne markets anticipate further weakness

China’s domestic spot battery-grade lithium carbonate and hydroxide prices were unchanged week on week on Thursday January 17 due to slow market activity ahead of Chinese New Year, while technical and Industrial grade lithium carbonate prices moved down slightly on supplier destocking.

  • Battery-grade lithium carbonate and hydroxide prices held on thin activity. 
  • Technical and industrial grade lithium carbonate prices edged down. 
  • Rest of the world spot prices sat unchanged week on week. 
  • Transportation of lithium compounds to stop ahead of the Lunar New Year.


China’s battery-grade lithium carbonate and hydroxide spot market prices were steady in the latest pricing session with most consumers well stocked and in no rush to procure additional material ahead of the Lunar New Year holiday on February 4-10.

“We haven’t placed any orders this week and have no plans to purchase before the Lunar New Year holidays [since we] remain well stocked,” a cathode producer told Fastmarkets. “We anticipate resuming purchasing after the holiday.”

Meanwhile, Chinese producers said they plan to suspend transporting lithium compounds gradually from next week ahead of the national holiday.

“We have kept our lithium carbonate prices unchanged this week despite the lower offering prices in the spot market as some suppliers are eager to boost sales before the holiday,” a lithium producer told Fastmarkets. “Spot prices remain stable and we will stop transportation of lithium compounds gradually until the beginning of the holiday.”

As a result, Fastmarkets assessed the Chinese domestic spot battery-grade lithium carbonate price (min 99.5% Li2CO3) at 75,000-83,000 yuan ($11,083-12,265) per tonne on Thursday January 18, unchanged from the previous week. 

The battery-grade lithium hydroxide monohydrate (min 56.5% LiOH.H2O) price was similarly unchanged at 99,000-109,000 yuan per tonne on Thursday.

In contrast, technical and industrial grade lithium carbonate prices fell on the top end of the range on deals achieved at lower prices ahead of the holiday after producers agreed to sell at reduced prices to to get rid of stock.

Fastmarkets assessed the technical and industrial grade lithium carbonate price (min 99% Li2CO3) price at 65,000-70,000 yuan per tonne on Thursday from 65,000-72,000 yuan per tonne the week before.

“Prices above 70,000 yuan per tonne for technical and industrial grade lithium carbonate seem quite exceptional for the time being as most suppliers want to reduce material in stock before the holiday,” a second lithium producer told Fastmarkets.

Asian lithium seaborne price stable
The cif China, Japan and Korea battery-grade lithium compound prices were unchanged this week due to buyers continuing to hold back from procuring more material on expectations of softer prices.

Fastmarkets’ battery-grade lithium carbonate (min 99.5% Li2CO3) price was $12.50-14.50 per kg on Thursday, while the price of hydroxide (min 56.5% LiOH.H2O) was $15-17 per kg both on a cif China, Japan and Korea basis.

“The seaborne Asian market has decelerated significantly ahead of the holiday and consumers are holding back from procuring more material and waiting for prices to softer further,” a trader told Fastmarkets.

Unchanged European, US prices
The European and US spot prices were static week on week on thin trading activity.

Fastmarkets assessed the battery-grade carbonate (min 99.5% Li2CO3) spot market price on a delivered duty-paid basis to Europe and the US at $13-15 per kg on Thursday, unchanged from the previous week.

The lithium hydroxide monohydrate (min 56.5% LiOH.H2O) spot price delivered duty-paid to Europe and the US was stable week on week at $15-17 per kg.

“The market remains quite slow and despite conversations with consumers we haven’t sold any material this week,” a third lithium producer told Fastmarkets. “[We are] mainly busy with closing some supply contracts.”

“The global spot market is generally slow and the Lunar New Year will reduce activity further in the weeks to come,” he added.

Fastmarkets lithium prices

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

Martim Facada

martim.facada@fastmarkets.com

Carrie Shi

Carrie.shi@fastmarkets.com

Published

Martim Facada

Carrie Shi

January 18, 2019

12:25 GMT

London, Beijing