GLOBAL LITHIUM WRAP: Seaborne Asian lithium market succumbs to price pressure

Asian seaborne lithium market ended its over two-month steady streak on Thursday September 17 with lower prices captured on the spot market, while China’s domestic spot battery-grade lithium markets remained firm with producers insisting on higher prices.

  • The Asian seaborne lithium carbonate and hydroxide prices both fell, ending more than two months of stable pricing.
  • China’s battery-grade lithium carbonate market remained firm and some participants are optimistic deals could conclude higher.
  • China’s lithium hydroxide market remained quiet week on week.
  • US and European battery-grade prices held firm this week despite weakness in the technical and industrial grades.
The cif China, Japan and Korea battery-grade lithium compound spot market fell this week after over two months of steady prices, reflecting more data points at lower levels.
Fastmarkets assessed the lithium carbonate, 99.5% Li2CO3 min, battery grade, spot price cif China, Japan and Korea at $6-7.50 per kg on Thursday, falling by 6.9% from $6.50-8 per kg last week.
The seaborne lithium hydroxide monohydrate, 56.5% LiOH.H2O min, battery grade, spot price, cif China, Japan and Korea also ended over two months of stability on Thursday, falling by 4.3% to $8.50-9.50 per kg from $8.80-10 per kg previously.
“Contract prices for lithium products are still at a high level, but the spot market is much lower for the moment,” a buyer said.
“Lower battery-grade lithium carbonate prices are mainly cif China; we even heard about $5 per kg cif China. Meanwhile, cif Japan and South Korea are still higher,” a second buyer said.
“Our offering prices are not going down, but we feel the sentiment on prices is under downward pressure,” a producer told Fastmarkets.
Domestic Chinese carbonate market well supported
The Chinese spot battery-grade lithium carbonate market continued to hold firm this week. Most major producers still insisted on their higher offer prices and received more deals at these levels, according to sources, although cheap material was not totally gone on the spot market.
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 ($5,466-6,057) per tonne on Thursday, unchanged from the previous week and at a level it has held since July 16.
“Offering prices rising, and we heard more at 41,000 yuan per tonne and some even at 42,000 yuan per tonne. But actual deals could be at 39,500-40,000 yuan per tonne if you purchased from a key producer. Prices above 40,000 yuan per tonne I think it will be hard to conclude,” a third buyer told Fastmarkets.
“We have already purchased sufficient stocks to support production in the rest of this year, so there is currently no need for more spot buying. I think the market will stay at a relative stable trend in the rest of this year,” a fourth buyer said.
“Cheap materials are not totally disappearing on the spot market, and some buyers could still get it at 37,000-38,000 yuan per tonne as some buyers are still unwilling to pay much higher prices,” a fifth buyer told Fastmarkets.
“We are selling at 41,000 yuan per tonne for battery-grade lithium carbonate, and we also received more orders. I think prices can go up further as most producers are still suffering losses,” a second producer said.
The battery-grade lithium hydroxide market stood unchanged this week, without significant improved in demand from the high-nickel ternary sector.
Fastmarkets’ lithium hydroxide monohydrate, 56.5% LiOH.H2O min, battery grade, spot price range exw domestic China was at 45,000-51,000 yuan per tonne on Thursday. The price has also not changed since July 16.
Europe, US battery-grade market watches technical prices
Europe and US lithium compounds for technical and industrial applications drifted lower over the past weak due to fundamentals that remain weak despite the end of the summer season.
Fastmarkets assessed the price of lithium carbonate 99% Li2CO3 min, technical and industrial grades, spot price ddp Europe and US at $5.80-7 per kg on Thursday, down from $6-7.20 per kg over the past fortnight.
“There is no sign of demand picking up,” a producer active in Europe said. “After the [health] crisis, we are hoping for a V-shaped recovery.”
A second distributor active in Europe said that demand recovery “will be slow.”
Fastmarkets assessed the price of lithium hydroxide monohydrate 56.5% LiOH.H2O min, technical and industrial grades, spot price ddp Europe and US at $7.50-8.20 per kg on Thursday, down from $7.50-8.50 over the past six weeks.
On the other hand, the battery-grade lithium complex held steady in Europe and the US over the past seven days, resisting bearishness from the technical grade compounds.
Fastmarkets' lithium carbonate 99.5% Li2CO3 min, battery grade, spot price ddp Europe and US stood at $7.50-9 per kg on Thursday. 
The lithium hydroxide monohydrate 56.5% LiOH.H2O min, battery grade, spot price ddp Europe and US stood at $9.75-10.50 per kg on the same day.

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 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

September 18, 2020

12:26 GMT

London, Beijing