GLOBAL LITHIUM WRAP: Chinese carbonate market hits stalemate; Europe, US prices static

China’s battery-grade lithium prices held in the week ended Thursday August 13 due to a stalemate in negotiations between buyers and sellers.

  • Buyer opposition to sellers’ higher offers kept the Chinese battery-grade lithium carbonate price rangebound. 
  • China’s lithium hydroxide market held for the fifth consecutive week. 
  • Continued weak Asian battery-grade lithium demand kept the spot markets flat again. 
  • Europe, US prices flat amid seasonal summer downtime, but market expects some improvement in September.

The Chinese spot battery-grade lithium carbonate market was unchanged week on week, having reached an apparent stalemate. Buyers were reluctant to accept price increases and producers continued to insist on offering prices at the high end of the current range.

As a result, Fastmarkets’ weekly price assessment for lithium carbonate, 99.5% Li2CO3 min, battery grade, spot price range exw domestic China stood at 37,000-41,000 yuan ($5,281-5,852) per tonne on Thursday August 13, unchanged for the sixth week.

“We haven’t lowered our prices and maintained offering prices at 40,000-41,000 yuan per tonne. Our orders are quite full this month, so some small buyers’ prices are higher than the previous month,” a producer said.

“I haven’t purchased any materials this week and still consuming existing stocks. While I am unwilling to accept any increase, and I think prices might see some fluctuation at the end of this month or next month,” a buyer said.

The lithium carbonate index, min 99.5% Li2O3, battery grade, exw China rose by 0.7% week on week to 38,700 yuan per tonne on Thursday from 38,419 yuan per tonne, reflecting the increased number of data points at the high end of the carbonate assessment range.

China’s technical and industrial grade lithium carbonate price was stable this week at 31,000-34,000 yuan per tonne although more prices were reported at higher end. Market participants said they did not see further increases in the immediate term.

Meanwhile, there was little market activity in the Chinese domestic battery-grade lithium hydroxide market, keeping Fastmarkets’ lithium hydroxide monohydrate, 56.5% LiOH.H2O min, battery grade, spot price range exw domestic China at 45,000-51,000 yuan per tonne on Thursday, unchanged since July 9.

Asian seaborne lithium market slow
Activity in the seaborne China, Japan and Korea battery-grade lithium market remained slow this week, with some buyers reportedly asking to defer deliveries due to weak end-consumer consumption.

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 on Thursday, unchanged from a week ago.

The battery-grade lithium hydroxide monohydrate, 56.5% LiOH.H2O min, battery grade, spot price cif China, Japan and Korea was also steady week on week at $8.80-10 per kg on Thursday. 

“The seaborne market is still slow this week and we haven’t seen any prices fluctuation. Some customers asked to delay delivery as they are also facing a lack of orders from their end users,” a second producer said.

Europe, US lithium markets retreat for summer
The price for spot lithium compounds in Europe and the United States remained flat over the week on limited spot demand. Participants said they expect clearer market direction once buyers return to the market from September onward.

Fastmarkets assessed the price of lithium carbonate 99.5% Li2CO3 min, battery grade, spot price ddp Europe and US at $8-9 per kg on Thursday, unchanged since July 16.

Fastmarkets’ lithium hydroxide monohydrate 56.5% LiOH.H2O min, battery grade, spot price ddp Europe and US also remained stable at $9.75-10.50 per kg, with no transactions reported.

“Things are quiet, and prices are close to the bottom; I do not expect any fluctuation this month, we have to wait until September for the market to reactivate,” a European trader 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 August 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

Cristina Belda


Carrie Shi

Cristina Belda

August 14, 2020

13:10 GMT

Beijing, Madrid