GLOBAL LITHIUM WRAP: Europe, US carbonate market blames persistent downstream weakness for falling prices

The European and US battery grade lithium carbonate price fell by 2.9% week on week on Thursday July 16 amid continued demand weakness, while Chinese prices consolidated the previous week's losses.

  • The European and US lithium carbonate price fell on the top end of the range after buyers resisted higher offers.
  • China’s battery-grade lithium prices stabilized after a fall last week.
  • China’s industrial-grade lithium carbonate price was supported by producers insisting on higher prices.
Technical and battery-grade lithium carbonate compound prices in Europe and the United States fell week on week, with sources reporting persistent weakness in the market in Europe.
Fastmarkets assessed the lithium carbonate 99.5% Li2CO3 min, battery grade, spot price ddp Europe and US at $8-9 per kg on Thursday July 16, down by 2.9% from $8-9.50 per kg - a level it had held over the previous fortnight.
The lithium carbonate 99% Li2CO3 min, technical and industrial grades, spot price ddp Europe and US was at $6-7.50 per kg on Thursday, narrowing downward from $6-8 per kg a week before. Buyers were reportedly unwilling to accept anything above $7.50 per kg.
“We see the summer period as being steady, there is generally a low level of activity due to the summer season across Europe but it is still better than when we were in full lockdown such as in the second quarter of this year,” a supplier active in Europe said.
“I still see a little bit of downward pressure on prices,” he added.
In end markets, the raft of European government announcements in support of the shift toward a greener mobility continues.
The Italian parliament recently approved the government-proposed incentive increase for buying electric vehicles (EV). This is set to increase the discount for buying a new full electric vehicle while scrapping old internal combustion engine (ICE) cars to €10,000 from €6,000.
Chinese prices stabilize
China’s battery-grade lithium carbonate price stabilized this week after a 1,000 yuan decrease last week. Most producers did not increase prices despite a firming of industrial-grade prices because battery-grade stocks are sufficient and downstream buyers were unwilling to accept higher prices.
Fastmarkets’ weekly assessment for the lithium carbonate, 99.5% Li2CO3 min, battery grade, spot price range exw domestic China was 37,000-41,000 yuan per tonne ($5,289-5,862) on Thursday, unchanged from the previous week.
“Battery-grade lithium carbonate prices haven’t seen any increase this week, and we can still purchase at around 37,000-38,000 yuan per tonne. Some suppliers intend to increase prices slightly, but I am unwilling to accept higher prices for the moment,” a buyer told Fastmarkets.
“I think it is a positive signal that industrial-grade lithium carbonate prices became firm recently. Battery-grade materials haven’t been supported significantly by this, but it might slow down the speed the price falls to some degree. Current prices are already very low and are close to a bottom,” a producer said.
The technical and industrial grade lithium carbonate prices remained firm this week with several deals concluded at higher prices. Fastmarkets assessed the Chinese technical and industrial grade lithium carbonate spot price at 31,000-34,000 yuan per tonne on Thursday, up from 30,000-34,000 yuan per tonne from a week ago.
“We have seen an uptick in technical grade carbonate in the domestic Chinese market despite no significant increase in demand this week, and we heard new purchase this week were mostly at 32,000-33,000 yuan per tonne. I think it might be that China’s brine producers’ inventory levels are quite low so they feel they have the capacity to increase prices a little bit,” a second producer said.
Meanwhile, the corresponding lithium hydroxide monohydrate, 56.5% LiOH.H2O min, battery grade, spot price range exw domestic China was also unchanged at 45,000-51,000 yuan per tonne this week with most business within the range. Demand from the downstream high-nickel ternary sector remained slow with only separate key buyers purchasing small volumes.
Asian seaborne lithium market remains quiet
The cif China, Japan and Korea battery-grade lithium spot market kept quiet this week with limited spot trading seen and most prices reported within the current range .
Fastmarkets assessed the lithium carbonate, 99.5% Li2CO3 min, battery grade, spot price at $6.50-8 per kg on a cif China, Japan and Korea basis, unchanged from a week ago.
The seaborne lithium hydroxide monohydrate, 56.5% LiOH.H2O min, battery grade, spot price was also unchanged at $9-10 per kg on a cif China, Japan and Korea basis on Thursday.
“The seaborne Asia lithium spot market is pretty flat this week, and I am not seeing any great fluctuation on prices. I think prices will probably remain where they are until buying activity improves,” a distributor 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 July 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

Dalila Ouerghi

dalila.ouerghi@fastmarkets.com

Published

Carrie Shi

Dalila Ouerghi

July 17, 2020

14:12 GMT

Beijing, London