GLOBAL LITHIUM WRAP: Sluggish demand, ample stocks continues to weigh on Chinese market

Chinese domestic lithium prices were stable week on week on Thursday May 16 due to slow demand and sufficient stocks at hand, Fastmarkets learned.

  • China’s battery-grade lithium carbonate and hydroxide prices were unchanged. 
  • Technical and industrial grade lithium carbonate prices consolidated increases a week ago. 
  • Rest-of-world prices were flat on slow demand and ample stocks.

China’s spot battery-grade lithium carbonate market remained steady this week. Producers continue to attempt to increase prices but consumers remain reluctant to accept higher prices due to good availability of material. Instead, buyers have held back from procuring material above the current Fastmarkets price range.

As a result, Fastmarkets’ Chinese domestic spot battery-grade lithium carbonate price (min 99.5% Li2CO3) stood unchanged at 70,000-78,000 yuan ($10,179-11,342) per tonne on Thursday. 

“We purchased 10 tonnes of battery-grade lithium carbonate this week at the same price of our last purchase last week,” a cathode producer told Fastmarkets. “Demand is typically slow during this time of the year and we think it will be hard to see prices increasing any time soon.”

The technical and industrial grade lithium carbonate market was also unchanged week on week at 63,500-68,000 yuan per tonne on Thursday, stabilizing after a price drop the week before.

Market participants also reported an unchanged market for battery-grade lithium hydroxide on slow demand for this battery material typically used in nickel-rich batteries.

Lithium producers and battery makers in China called the take-up and production of these types of batteries, such as NCM 811, disappointing. Safety, stability and performance remain the main barriers to the use of this state of art batteries.

The Chinese battery-grade lithium hydroxide monohydrate (min 56.5% LiOH.H2O) ex-works price  was at 85,000-90,000 yuan per tonne on Thursday, unchanged week on week.

“Battery-grade lithium hydroxide prices remain flat at current levels on quiet demand whilst micro-grade material is traded at 95,000 yuan per tonne,” a lithium producer said. “Production and adoption of nickel-rich batteries in China and across Asia has been disappointing and this could push hydroxide prices down in the coming weeks due to ample stocks.”

Asian lithium seaborne market flat
Seaborne cif China, Japan and Korea battery-grade lithium market participants reported no change to prices this week, pointing out that most material being traded on a seaborne basis is pegged to mid-term contract prices.

Consequently, Fastmarkets’ battery-grade lithium carbonate (min 99.5% Li2CO3) price stayed at $11-13 per kg, while the hydroxide monohydrate (min 56.5% LiOH.H2O) price did not move at $15-16 per kg on a cif China, Japan and Korea basis on Thursday.

European, US prices stable
In Europe and the United States, battery-grade lithium spot prices remained flat week on week due to slow demand and little activity reported.

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

“Our prices remain unchanged week on week on slow [spot] demand mostly selling under a mid to long-term contract basis,” a second producer told Fastmarkets.

“The market has been very slow and we have been mostly negotiating contract prices,” a distributor told Fastmarkets. “We anticipate seeing the European and US markets quite slow with stable prices in the coming weeks due to ample stocks of lithium in the global market”.

Fastmarkets lithium prices

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.

Martim Facada

martim.facada@fastmarkets.com

Carrie Shi

Carrie.shi@fastmarkets.com

Published

Martim Facada

Carrie Shi

May 17, 2019

12:45 GMT

Beijing, London