GLOBAL LITHIUM WRAP: Chinese battery-grade lithium hydroxide price softens on aggressive offers

The domestic Chinese battery-grade lithium hydroxide spot price fell by more than 3% in the week to Thursday February 21 although the carbonate assessment held firm – a pattern that was reversed in the seaborne market, where the carbonate price dropped week on week and the hydroxide price was steady.

  • Offers for battery-grade lithium hydroxide in China were lower week on week, bringing the Fastmarkets assessment down. 
  • Micronized battery-grade lithium hydroxide material traded at a premium in China. 
  • Technical and industrial grade lithium carbonate prices softened in China and further falls are expected. 
  • Seaborne cif China, Japan & Korean battery grade lithium carbonate prices fell while rest-of-world prices were stable.


The battery-grade lithium hydroxide spot market in China fell on Thursday February 21, widening the premium for Chinese micronized battery-grade hydroxide material to 5,000 yuan per tonne over Fastmarkets’ market assessment.

Micronized material is typically more expensive to produce than standard grade material. In China, Japan and South Korea battery makers have been requesting this material more often because it performs better in nickel rich batteries. This has kept prices for micronized battery-grade lithium hydroxide elevated.

Fastmarkets assessed the battery-grade lithium hydroxide monohydrate (min 56.5% LiOH.H2O) price ex-works China at 96,000-105,000 yuan ($14,299-15,640) per tonne on Thursday, down from 99,000-109,000 yuan per tonne last week.

“Lower prices have been offered by some producers who are eager to sell material, but micronized material remains at higher prices. Downstream demand shows no improvement and we had no deals concluded this week,” a lithium hydroxide producer told Fastmarkets.

Producers with material in stock have been more willing to decrease their prices for standard battery-grade lithium hydroxide to reduce inventory levels around the Lunar New Year.

Meanwhile, China’s battery-grade lithium carbonate spot market was unchanged this week. Fastmarkets’ last assessed the Chinese domestic spot battery-grade lithium carbonate price (min 99.5% Li2CO3) at 73,000-81,000 yuan per tonne on Thursday.

Activity has picked up after participants returned to the market from the Lunar New Year holiday (February 4-10) but few deals were concluded this week.

“We haven’t started purchasing as we just got back to work after the Lantern Festival holiday this week. I am still holding back to see whether prices will change in the coming weeks,” a consumer told Fastmarkets.

Prices have been virtually steady all year so far, except for a slight decline in late January when the assessment fell to the current range from 75,000-83,000 yuan per tonne.

Meanwhile, there was a slight decline in the technical and industrial grade lithium carbonate price to 64,000-69,000 yuan per tonne on Thursday from 65,000-70,000 yuan per tonne last week. This could be the beginning of a slow downward price adjustment, market participants told Fastmarkets.

“We have received offers of material below and at the low end of Fastmarkets’ technical and industrial lithium carbonate spot price. This could start a downward price trend in the following weeks,” a second lithium producer said.

“Some market participants anticipate a softening in prices but it remains uncertain,” the producer added.

Softer Asian seaborne lithium carbonate price
The battery-grade lithium carbonate price cif China, Japan and Korea fell on Thursday, affected by lower offers from China and other regions.

Fastmarkets assessed the battery-grade lithium carbonate (min 99.5% Li2CO3) price cif China, Japan and Korea at $12-14 per kg, down 3.7% from $12.50-14.50 per kg the previous week.

“We have heard of deals below $11 per kg in the past days and our price is as low as $12 per kg. Lower prices offered from China and other regions are the main reasons for the recent fall in price,” a third producer told Fastmarkets.

Conversely, a lack of market activity with consumers and producers holding back on closing deals has kept the battery-grade lithium hydroxide monohydrate (min 56.5% LiOH.H2O) spot price unchanged week on week at $15-17 per kg on a cif China, Japan and Korea basis.

Stable European, US market
The European and US spot markets moved sideways amid little trading activity.

Fastmarkets assessed the price for battery-grade lithium carbonate (min 99.5% Li2CO3) on a European and US delivered, duty-paid basis at $13-15 per kg on Thursday, while the European and US hydroxide monohydrate (min 56.5% LiOH.H2O) price was $15-17 per kg, both unchanged week on week.

“The market in Europe and US remains quite stable with no price movement over the course of the week. We expect the market to remain like this for the next few days,” a fourth producer told Fastmarkets.

Fastmarkets lithium prices

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

February 22, 2019

12:50 GMT

London, Beijing