GLOBAL LITHIUM WRAP: Asian markets soften as producers cut carbonate prices; European, US markets stagnant

A lack of trading activity in the lithium market led Chinese producers to lower their sales prices ahead of the year-end break, and China’s domestic lithium carbonate market dropped by 4% on Thursday December 19, while in Europe and the United States prices were unchanged.

  • China’s battery grade lithium carbonate price weakened with producers continuously lowering offer prices amid thin buyer interest.
  • Technical and industrial grade lithium carbonate prices fell further this week.
  • Lower offer prices combined with a quiet market drove Asian prices down on a weekly comparison.
  • European and US prices largely unchanged in a quiet market
China’s spot battery-grade lithium carbonate price dropped by 4% this week after producers lowered their prices to boost sales and cash flow amid poor demand. Downstream buyers were in no hurry to purchase and only purchased on a hand-to-mouth basis.
Fastmarkets’ latest assessment of the lithium carbonate, 99.5% Li2CO3 min, battery grade, exw domestic China, spot price was 45,000-51,000 yuan ($6,420-7,276) per tonne on Thursday December 19. This was down from 47,000-53,000 yuan per tonne in the previous week. 
“We keep seeing lower prices for battery-grade carbonate in the spot market, especially for the materials produced from mica and brine. Lack of downstream demand has led producers to lower prices, and we haven’t started purchasing this week,” a downstream buyer told Fastmarkets.
The industrial-grade lithium carbonate market also saw falling prices this week amid low buying appetite from downstream lithium manganese oxide (LMO) and lithium iron phosphate (LFP) battery manufacturers.
Fastmarkets assessed the Chinese technical and industrial grade lithium carbonate spot price at 38,000-41,000 yuan per tonne on Thursday December 19, down from 40,000-43,000 yuan per tonne a week ago.
The Chinese domestic battery-grade lithium hydroxide price was flat, with few volumes being transacted due to the lack of improvement in demand from the high-nickel ternary sector.
Fastmarkets assessed the lithium hydroxide monohydrate, 56.5% LiOH.H2O min, battery grade, ex-works, spot price at 52,000-57,000 yuan per tonne on Thursday, unchanged from the previous week.
Asian lithium seaborne price soften further
Seaborne Asian battery-grade lithium spot prices fell this week after three weeks of stability with lower offering prices seen pressured by the steady fall in China’s prices.
Fastmarkets assessed the lithium carbonate, 99.5% Li2CO3 min, battery-grade spot price at $8-9.50 per kg on a cif China, Japan and Korea basis, down 5.4% from $8.50-10 per kg previous week.
“Lower offer prices are being seen in the Asian seaborne market. Signed deals have been limited, and most buyers are still negotiating next year’s prices, which they expect to be lower,” a distributor told Fastmarkets.
Fastmarkets’ lithium hydroxide monohydrate, 56.5% LiOH.H2O min, battery-grade spot price was assessed at $10-11.50 per kg cif China, Japan and Korea on Thursday, down 4.4% from $10.50-12.50 per kg the previous week.
European, US spot prices flat ahead of holidays
The lithium carbonate 99.5% Li2CO3 min, battery grade, spot price ddp Europe and US remained stable in a quiet trading environment ahead of the Christmas holiday, maintaining level at $10-12.50 per kg on Thursday.
The lithium hydroxide monohydrate 56.5% LiOH.H2O min, battery grade, spot price ddp Europe and US was similarly unchanged at $12.50-13.50 per kg on Thursday. The assessment has maintained this level since September 12.
During the week, market participants acknowledged that spot demand was slow, but they reported that for the time being further drops are unlikely and prices are more stable than had been initially expected.
"Lithium prices are proving more resilient than what we expected... It's hard to predict what will be the trend for 2020, but we don't expect a price recovery until the second year of the year - although it also seems that any falls will not that catastrophic," a European producer said.

Learn more about Fastmarkets’ lithium pricing methodology here and read the latest lithium price spotlight here.
Fastmarkets’ trade log for battery-grade lithium carbonate in China for December includes all trades, bids and offers reported to Fastmarkets.
All lithium carbonate, hydroxide and spodumene prices are available in our Battery Raw Materials Market Tracker. Get a sample of the report here.

Carrie Shi

Carrie.shi@fastmarkets.com

Cristina Belda

cristina.belda@fastmarkets.com

Published

Carrie Shi

Cristina Belda

December 20, 2019

13:55 GMT

Beijing, London