GLOBAL LITHIUM WRAP: Bullish offers from Chinese producers narrow domestic carbonate range further

The domestic Chinese battery-grade lithium carbonate price rose for a second consecutive week on Thursday October 22, supported by reducing stocks and firm offer prices from bullish producers.

  • China’s battery-grade lithium carbonate price narrowed up by 1,000 yuan per tonne on bullish offers.
  • China’s industrial-grade lithium carbonate price moved up amid tight supply.
  • The Chinese domestic lithium hydroxide market drifted lower after focus shifted to the more liquid carbonate market.
  • Asian lithium spot prices remain rangebound.
China’s spot battery-grade lithium carbonate market continued to narrow up on Thursday with most concluded prices at around 39,000 yuan per tonne or above, according to market participants. More producers maintained high offering prices, citing lower stocks at hand and a bullish outlook for the market.
Fastmarkets’ weekly assessment for lithium carbonate, 99.5% Li2CO3 min, battery grade, spot price range exw domestic China was 39,000-41,000 yuan per tonne ($5,847-6,146) on Thursday, up from 38,000-41,000 yuan per tonne from the previous week.
“Recent lithium carbonate market is indeed showing improvement with prices firming up, and currently more offers are at 40,000-43,000 yuan per tonne from the producer sector. But I haven’t heard any deals concluded at the [higher level of 43,000 yuan],” a buyer told Fastmarkets.
“Cathode makers placed more orders to guarantee stocks to the end of this year which brings support to battery-grade lithium carbonate, but I think it is hard for prices to surge in a large range as the overall demand hasn't had explosive growth yet,” a second buyer said.
“We are offering and selling at 42,000 yuan per tonne and our customers gradually accepted current higher prices. I think prices will move up slightly next month,” a producer added.
The carbonate price has now moved up by 2,000 yuan per tonne on the low end since October 8 when it moved up for the first time in 17 months.
China’s technical and industrial grade lithium carbonate price edged up this week due to tight supply and increasing demand. Fastmarkets assessed the Chinese technical and industrial grade lithium carbonate spot price at 33,000-35,000 yuan per tonne on Thursday. The weekly assessment had risen from 32,000-35,000 yuan per tonne on October 15.
“Industrial-grade carbonate supply is very tight and most sellers do not have sufficient stocks, which pushes prices higher. More deals are tending to close at the high level of 34,500 yuan per tonne or higher, and some offers are up to 36,000 yuan per tonne or even higher from brine producers,” a trader said.
In contrast, the battery-grade lithium hydroxide market continued to trend down this week, reflecting producers lowering prices to boost sales.
Fastmarkets’ lithium hydroxide monohydrate, 56.5% LiOH.H2O min, battery grade, spot price range exw domestic China was at 43,000-49,000 yuan per tonne on Thursday, down from 44,000-50,000 yuan per tonne in the previous week.
“I thinks demand for battery-grade hydroxide in China is suffering as current most focus is on carbonate,” a third buyer said.
“Battery-grade lithium hydroxide prices are still soft and not following the firm trend with carbonate. Currently most prices are below 50,000 yuan per tonne, and only micro-grade hydroxide prices still see above 50,000 yuan per tonne,” a fourth buyer revealed.
Usually, micro-grade hydroxide trades at a 5,000-10,000 yuan premium over the Fastmarkets battery-grade price range.
Asian seaborne lithium prices rangebound
Limited trading in the seaborne Asia battery-grade lithium spot market kept prices unchanged for another week.
Fastmarkets assessed the lithium carbonate, 99.5% Li2CO3 min, battery grade, spot price at $6 -7.50 per kg on a cif China, Japan and Korea basis on Thursday October 22, unchanged since September 17.
The lithium hydroxide monohydrate, 56.5% LiOH.H2O min, battery grade, spot price, cif China, Japan and Korea stood at $8.50-9.50 per kg on Thursday, also unchanged since mid-September.
“We heard the price of battery-grade lithium carbonate was a little higher in China, while for our prices in seaborne Asian market see no changes for the moment,” an Asian buyer said.
“Our supplier has contacted with us for next year’s contract this month, but it is hard to fix the quantity as well, and we have to discuss more with our customers at the same time,” the source added.
Europe, US market waits for direction
The European and United States battery and technical grade lithium spot prices remained rangebound in the seven days to Thursday October 22 as market participants reported mixed views on the direction of prices amid continued uncertainty surrounding the Covid-19 pandemic. Meanwhile, negotiations for long-term contracts for the upcoming year are starting.
Fastmarkets assessed the lithium carbonate 99% Li2CO3 min, technical and industrial grades, spot price ddp Europe and US at $5.80-7 per kg on Thursday. The assessment has remained unchanged for six consecutive sessions after falling from $6-7.20 per Kg on September 10.
Some market participants still see weakness in lithium carbonate technical grade prices in Europe with prices below $6 per kg while others are starting to see prices firming up on the back of a strengthening lithium carbonate spot price in the more liquid Chinese domestic market.
“Prices around $6.80-7 per kg are achievable only for small quantities,” a distributor active in Europe said.
“Tight supply in China and reduced availability of stocks is supporting [lithium carbonate technical grade prices], I believe prices will remain stable for the remainder of the year or might even go a up a little bit more,” a supplier active in the upstream supply chain in Europe said. 
Lithium carbonate 99.5% Li2CO3 min, battery grade, spot price ddp Europe and US was at $7.50-8.50 per kg on Thursday, while the equivalent lithium hydroxide monohydrate 56.5% LiOH.H2O min, battery grade, spot price ddp Europe and US remained at $9-10 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 October 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.
Join the lithium industry’s biggest annual networking event, Lithium Supply & Markets, taking place on October 26-28. Find out more here.

Carrie Shi

Carrie.shi@fastmarkets.com

Dalila Ouerghi

dalila.ouerghi@fastmarkets.com

Published

Carrie Shi

Dalila Ouerghi

October 23, 2020

11:42 GMT

London, Beijing