GLOBAL LITHIUM WRAP: China’s lithium carbonate market still firm – for now

Chinese domestic battery-grade lithium carbonate producers kept their prices firm in the week ended Thursday September 10, with most customers maintaining a wait-and-see attitude, while the market in the rest of the world was flat.

  • Sentiment in China’s battery-grade lithium carbonate market was still bullish with offering prices remaining firm.
  • Industrial-grade carbonate prices in China were slightly firmer.
  • China’s lithium hydroxide market showed no fluctuation and demand remained thin.
  • Seaborne Asian spot market was slow but still under downward pressure.

The majority of battery-grade lithium carbonate producers in China kept their offer prices high over the past seven days, but some spot deals could still be heard concluded at lower levels, and there were some deals reported at prices as much as 1,000-2,000 yuan per tonne higher.
Fastmarkets’ weekly price assessment for lithium carbonate, 99.5% Li2CO3 min, battery grade, spot price range, exw domestic China, was 37,000-41,000 yuan ($5,410-5,995) per tonne on September 10, unchanged from the previous week.
“Some key producers’ offer prices are 40,000 yuan per tonne or above, and concluded prices can reach 39,000-40,000 yuan per tonne. It seems that some downstream buyers could accept such a slight increase in prices, but we are still being careful,” a buyer told Fastmarkets.
“Concluded prices for battery-grade lithium carbonate have gradually moved up in September,” a producer said, “with downstream demand picking up to some degree. Our order book is full in September and we are keeping our prices above 40,000 yuan per tonne.”
Prices for technical and industrial grades of lithium carbonate in China also held firm this week, with producers making higher offers. Fastmarkets assessed the spot price for Chinese technical and industrial grade lithium carbonate at 32,000-35,000 yuan per tonne on September 10, up from 31,000-34,000 yuan per tonne the previous week.
“Lower prices are hard to find and some producers are holding offer prices steady at up to 35,000 yuan per tonne, due to limited inventories, but I think higher prices will be hard to [achieve], so I will keep watching the market,” a trader said.
The battery-grade lithium hydroxide market was rangebound this week because demand did not pick up significantly. Most producers kept their prices within the current range.
Fastmarkets’ lithium hydroxide monohydrate, 56.5% LiOH.H2O min, battery grade, spot price range, exw domestic China, was 45,000-51,000 yuan per tonne on September 10, also unchanged from the previous week.
Asian seaborne lithium market flat
The seaborne market for cif China, Japan and Korea battery-grade lithium showed only thin activity this week, with most prices unchanged although the market was under pressure, with some lower prices heard.
Fastmarkets assessed the lithium carbonate, 99.5% Li2CO3 min, battery grade, spot price, cif China, Japan and Korea, at $6.50-8.00 per kg on Thursday, unchanged since early July.
And the seaborne lithium hydroxide monohydrate, 56.5% LiOH.H2O min, battery grade, spot price, cif China, Japan and Korea, was assessed at $8.80-10.00 per kg on the same day, unchanged since mid-July.
“The Asian seaborne spot market still shows limited activity, but we are starting to hear some deals for battery-grade lithium hydroxide at prices of $8.00-9.00 per kg,” a second buyer said.
“I think the current range for battery-grade lithium hydroxide prices is $8.80-10.00 per kg, but some of our customers say they have received even lower offer prices at $7.00-8.00 per kg cif Asia. I think such prices are not real and are too low,” a second producer said.
Europe, US lithium markets quiet
The battery-grade lithium carbonate and hydroxide spot markets in Europe and the United States have remained steady over the past seven days but lower prices were heard for technical-grade lithium carbonate.
Fastmarkets assessed the lithium carbonate, 99% Li2CO3 min, technical and industrial grades, spot price, ddp Europe and US, at $6.00-7.20 per kg on September 10, steady for a second consecutive week but down from $6.00-7.50 per kg, where it had remained since July 16.
Sources reported prices as low as $5.00-5.50 per kg for lithium carbonate spot transactions in Europe, but the mainstream market remained in the $6.00-7.20 per kg range, sources said.
“We are very close to the bottom [of the market] and we are not seeing continued falls [in price] any more,” a European seller of lithium compounds for technical and battery-grade applications said. “The price environment is more stable. Most of the market is still in the $6.00-7.00 per kg range [for lithium carbonate technical-grade spot prices in Europe].”
Chilean tender
In a related development, Chilean state mining company Enami has launched a lithium tender for exploration of the Infieles salt flats in the Atacama region, it said on September 8.
The tender process will close on September 15 and the execution works will last 240 calendar days, it added.
The Atacama region is rich in lithium resources, and lithium sector participants SQM and Albemarle already operate in the region.

Read more
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 September includes all reported trades, bids and offers.
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

September 11, 2020

13:27 GMT

London