GLOBAL LITHIUM WRAP: China lithium prices down further on negative short-term outlook

Battery-grade lithium prices in China decreased further in the week ending Thursday July 18 due to unimproved downstream demand, while most buyers were in no rush to buy more material due to current reduced cathode and battery production in China, buying only on a hand-to-mouth basis.

  • Battery-grade lithium carbonate and hydroxide prices moved further down this week.
  • Technical and industrial-grade lithium carbonate spot prices in China stabilized.
  • Prices for the rest of the world were unchanged week on week on slow market activity.
China’s battery-grade lithium carbonate price declined further over the week ending on July 18 after few producers maintained prices above 70,000 yuan ($10,178) per tonne.

Most downstream demand in China remains low due to lower cathode and battery production as well as the current negative short-term market outlook, leading consumers to buy on a hand-to-month basis and hold lower levels of raw material inventories.

Fastmarkets assessed the lithium carbonate 99.5% Li2CO3 min, battery grade, exw domestic China, spot price at 67,000-72,000 yuan per tonne on Thursday July 18, down from 68,000-73,000 yuan per tonne on July 11.

“Producers, who are eager to sell, continue lowering prices week on week to boost sales due to current slow demand, while only a few producers are insisting on prices above 70,000 yuan per tonne,” a cathode maker told Fastmarkets. “We had no need to purchase material this week,” he added.

“We see battery-grade lithium carbonate produced from spodumene offered as low as 68,000-69,000 yuan per tonne, while lithium carbonate produced from mica - [a lithium-bearing mineral, which is then concentrated and converted into lithium chemicals such as lithium carbonate or hydroxide] - as low as 67,000 yuan per tonne,” a second cathode maker told Fastmarkets.

The technical and industrial-grade lithium carbonate market in China stabilized this week after the small price drop two weeks ago.

Fastmarkets assessed the Chinese domestic lithium carbonate 99% Li2CO3 min, technical and industrial grade, ex-works, spot market price at 59,000-65,000 yuan per tonne on Thursday July 18, unchanged week on week.

The battery-grade lithium hydroxide market in China followed the downward price trend in the lithium carbonate market, moving down this week on slow market activity and reduced volumes of cathode and battery production in China.

Fastmarkets last assessed the lithium hydroxide monohydrate 56.5% LiOH.H2O min, battery grade, exw domestic China, spot price range at 75,000-81,000 yuan per tonne on July 18, down from 78,000-83,000 yuan per tonne from the previous assessment.

Unchanged seaborne Asian prices
The seaborne Asian battery-grade lithium carbonate and hydroxide spot markets remained unchanged week on week due to slow market activity, which is typical of the summer period.

Fastmarkets’ assessment of the lithium carbonate 99.5% Li2CO3 min, battery grade, spot price was unchanged week on week at $10.50-12 per kg, cif China, Japan and Korea, on July 18.

Fastmarkets assessed the lithium hydroxide monohydrate 56.5% LiOH.H2O min, battery grade spot price at $13-15 per kg on Thursday July 18, also unchanged week on week, on a cif China, Japan and Korea delivery basis.

“Prices for battery-grade lithium carbonate are around $11-12 per kg and hydroxide [prices] are around $13 per kg, cif South Korea, but I have also heard some lower prices,” a distributor in South Korea told Fastmarkets.

“Our prices remained unchanged week on week on very slow market activity,” a lithium producer told Fastmarkets. “Our battery-grade lithium carbonate price remains at $11 per kg while the battery-grade hydroxide price is at $14 per kg.”

Flat European and US prices
European and United States’ battery-grade lithium carbonate and hydroxide spot prices were unchanged over the pricing week due to the summer period keeping market activity low.

Fastmarkets last assessed the lithium carbonate 99.5% Li2CO3 min, battery grade, spot price at $11-13 per kg, ddp Europe and US, on Thursday July 18.

Fastmarkets’ assessment of the lithium hydroxide monohydrate 56.5% LiOH.H2O min, battery grade, spot price was at $13-15 per kg on July 18, on a ddp Europe and US basis, and also unchanged from the previous week.

“The lithium carbonate and hydroxide battery-grade spot markets remain flat in Europe and the US due to the summer holiday,” a second lithium producer told Fastmarkets. “We don’t expect much activity in the coming weeks due to the holiday period.”

“The market is flat due to the summer period in Europe and US, so we have mainly tried to sell material in Asia but the market seems slow there as well,” a trader told Fastmarkets.

Global lithium market prices

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

July 19, 2019

13:30 GMT

London, Shanghai