GLOBAL LITHIUM WRAP: Chinese carbonate producers hold higher offer prices on tight availability

China's battery-grade lithium carbonate producers continued to increase their offer prices in the week to Thursday November 12, citing reduced availability of materials, while the rest of the global market was characterized by limited spot buying appetite.

  • China’s battery-grade lithium carbonate producers remain bullish on the outlook for the rest of this year, pushing offer prices higher.
  • China’s lithium hydroxide price stabilized after recent falls in a subdued market environment.
  • The European and US markets were being stimulated by the more active Chinese market although prices remained rangebound so far.
Most of China’s domestic lithium carbonate producers continued to offer higher this week due to reducing supplies, with some saying they were booked out until the end of this year.
“We are selling at 43,000 yuan per tonne for battery-grade lithium carbonate. Spot material is scarcer as most have been booked earlier in the past two months,” a producer said.
But trading activity was low and buyers were hesitant to purchase at higher prices.
“I heard higher offers of 43,000-45,000 yuan per tonne for battery-grade lithium carbonate, but I think it is too high and I am unwilling to purchase such higher prices materials for the moment as I still have some stocks on hand,” a buyer told Fastmarkets.
“As the battery-grade lithium carbonate market indicates a shortage of spot materials - with more being booked in the past two months by downstream cathode makers until the end of this year - most suppliers want to push prices higher," a second buyer said. "I received offering prices of 42,000 yuan per tonne and also saw higher offer prices, but I am still considering whether to purchase or not.”
These conflicting fundamentals kept Fastmarkets’ weekly assessment for lithium carbonate, 99.5% Li2CO3 min, battery grade, spot price range exw domestic China unchanged week on week at 40,000-41,000 yuan ($6,052-6,203) per tonne on Thursday.
The battery-grade lithium hydroxide market stabilized this week, following drops in the preceding four weeks. Downstream buying remained at a low level, which limited price movements.
Fastmarkets assessed the lithium hydroxide monohydrate, 56.5% LiOH.H2O min, battery grade, spot price range exw domestic China at 42,000-47,000 yuan per tonne on Thursday November 12. The price had been at 44,000-50,000 yuan per tonne a month ago.
Asian seaborne lithium market flat with thin spot trades
There were limited spot trades in the cif China, Japan and Korea battery-grade lithium spot market, keeping the carbonate and hydroxide prices flat on a weekly basis.
Fastmarkets assessed the lithium carbonate, 99.5% Li2CO3 min, battery grade, cif China, Japan and Korea spot price at $6 -7.50 per kg on Thursday.
The lithium hydroxide monohydrate, 56.5% LiOH.H2O min, battery grade, spot price, cif China, Japan and Korea was also unchanged at $8.50-9.50 per kg on Thursday.
“It is near the end of the year and considering the recent uptrend [in the domestic Chinese prices], spot trades were rare this week and most prices haven’t fluctuated on a spot basis,” a second producer said.
Europe, US lithium carbonate demand firms up
The European and United States lithium carbonate spot market has started to show early signs of recovery with the bullish trend filtering through from the more active Chinese domestic market. But prices for the time being have remained unchanged.
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, unchanged for nine consecutive sessions after falling from $6-7.20 per kg on September 10.
“We are seeing increasing activity but that has not translated yet into price increases. More customers are looking for more material… things are definitely on the turn and we just started to put prices up especially for next-quarter delivery for lithium carbonate technical grade. We are seeing the price pressure feeding through for next quarter’s delivery.
“I also think that a key South American producer finished their sales allocation for this year and after a year where they boosted sales significantly, they started to put prices up,” An upstream source active in Europe said.
The battery-grade lithium market remained steady over the past seven days, with most sources still agreeing on the current spot range.
Fastmarkets’ assessment of the lithium carbonate 99.5% Li2CO3 min, battery grade, spot price ddp Europe and US was $7.50-8.50 per kg on Thursday, unchanged after dropping from $7.50-8.80 per kg in early October.
The lithium hydroxide technical and battery-grade markets also kept steady over the past week amid a lack of clear market direction.
“Lithium hydroxide technical-grade is stable at the moment and we certainly are not seeing the same downward pressure as in China in recent weeks,” the same upstream source said.
Fastmarkets assessed the lithium hydroxide monohydrate 56.5% LiOH.H2O min, technical and industrial grades, spot price ddp Europe and US at $7-8.20 per kg over the past six weeks.
Fastmarkets’ corresponding price for lithium hydroxide monohydrate 56.5% LiOH.H2O min, battery grade, spot price ddp Europe and US was $9-10 per kg on Thursday, also flat week on week.

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 November 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

November 13, 2020

12:39 GMT

London, Beijing