GLOBAL LITHIUM WRAP: Tight supply drives China’s lithium carbonate prices up further

China domestic battery-grade lithium carbonate prices increased again, up by 3.6% week on week due to tight supply from suppliers, with the respective European and United States’ lithium hydroxide spot prices moving up also, Fastmarkets heard on Thursday December 3.

  • China’s battery-grade lithium carbonate prices continued their uptrend on tight supply and bullish market sentiment.
  • China’s industrial-grade lithium carbonate prices rose on low material availability.
  • China’s lithium hydroxide prices were rangebound over the week.
  • The Asian battery-grade lithium spot market made limited fluctuations on thin trade.
  • The lithium hydroxide spot price moved up in both the European and United States’ markets.

China’s battery-grade lithium carbonate market continued on its upward momentum at the start of December, with prices increasing further as a result of tight supply and most producers confident that prices would increase further, Fastmarkets was told.
Fastmarkets’ weekly price assessment for lithium carbonate, 99.5% Li2CO3 min, battery grade, spot price range exw domestic China was 42,000-45,000 yuan ($6,430-6,889) per tonne on Thursday December 3, up from 41,000-43,000 yuan per tonne the previous week.
“Battery-grade lithium carbonate prices keep moving up this week. I heard more deals concluded at 44,000-45,000 yuan per tonne and some even at 46,000 yuan per tonne if there was an immediate need. Most suppliers are still targeting higher offering prices due to the current tight supply situation,” a buyer told Fastmarkets.
“We’ve purchased sufficient material until early next year and are in no hurry to buy. I think current mainstream prices are in the range of 42,000-45,000 yuan per tonne and I will hold a watchful attitude on the coming market,” a second buyer said.
“We’re offering above 47,000 yuan per tonne in December for battery-grade lithium carbonate because current supply on our side is still tight. I think prices will move even higher to around 50,000 yuan per tonne in January 2021,” a producer revealed.
China’s technical and industrial-grade lithium carbonate market also moved up further this week due to low material availability, with most offers up to 41,000 yuan per tonne or even higher, sources said.
Fastmarkets assessed the Chinese technical and industrial-grade lithium carbonate spot price at 37,000-39,000 yuan per tonne on Thursday, rising from 36,000-37,000 yuan per tonne on November 26.
“Currently it’s hard to find spot material and most sellers are offering higher prices. I planned to book some material but was told there was none,” a trader said.
The battery-grade lithium hydroxide market showed no obvious upward signs this week and most prices were still within the current range due to slow domestic demand, although some suppliers tried to increase prices slightly to test the market, sources said.
Fastmarkets’ lithium hydroxide monohydrate, 56.5% LiOH.H2O min, battery-grade spot price range exw domestic China was at 41,000-46,000 yuan per tonne on December 3, flat week on week.
“Battery-grade lithium hydroxide prices haven’t made increases as great as the carbonate sector due to unpicked-up demand, while some producers try to increased offering prices slightly to test the market,” a third buyer said.
Asian seaborne lithium market rangebound
The battery-grade lithium spot market cif China, Japan and Korea showed no fluctuation this week with most prices unchanged amid limited spot activity, although some lithium carbonate suppliers made offers at the high end of the current range, sources said.
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 December 3, unchanged from the previous week.
Fastmarkets’ seaborne battery-grade lithium hydroxide monohydrate, 56.5% LiOH.H2O min, battery grade, spot price, cif China, Japan and Korea was assessed at $8.50-9.50 per kg on Thursday, unchanged from a week ago.
“Offer prices for battery-grade lithium carbonate are starting to push higher slightly due to firmer technical-grade material. We’re offering around $7 per kg for material,” a second producer said.
Asian industrial-grade lithium spot prices firmed up this week with most prices rising after suppliers were unwilling to sell at cheaper prices amid low supply and increased demand.
Fastmarkets assessed the lithium carbonate 99% Li2CO3 min, technical and industrial grades, spot price cif China, Japan and Korea at $5-6 per kg on December 3, up from $4.80-6 per kg week on week.
“There aren’t many spot sellers for technical material because most capacity has already been allocated. Most offer prices are at least at $5.50 per kg or even higher,” a third producer said.
Europe, US lithium hydroxide spot market trends higher
The Europe, US battery-grade lithium hydroxide spot price moved up in the seven days to December 3 on a spot deal heard above $11 per kg for delivery to Europe and amid upward movements in the equivalent technical-grade lithium hydroxide market in the region.
Fastmarkets assessed the lithium hydroxide monohydrate 56.5% LiOH.H2O min, battery grade, spot price ddp Europe and US up by 6.4% over the week while it widened at the top end of the range to $9-11 per kg on December 3 from $9-9.80 per kg the previous week.
Similarly, Fastmarkets' lithium hydroxide monohydrate 56.5% LiOH.H2O min, technical and industrial grade, spot price ddp Europe and US was assessed higher at $7.50-8.20 per kg on December 3, narrowing on the low end from $7-8.20 per kg after it had remained unchanged for the previous eight weeks.
“The [technical-grade] hydroxide market is getting tighter in Europe because most of it is sourced from Russia where producers are raising offers on an increase in technical-grade lithium carbonate - [feedstock in the production of lithium hydroxide] - the cheaper [lithium carbonate] the Russian suppliers were getting in the summer is no longer available and the increase in prices is filtering through the value chain,” an upstream source active in Europe said.
In the lithium carbonate market, 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 December 3, unchanged for 12 consecutive sessions.
“I received an offer for technical-grade lithium carbonate from China at around $6.25 per kg on a cif Europe basis. Prices for material sourced from China are increasing on rising freight costs for that route. Prices below $6 per kg on a ddp basis in Europe are still achievable because South American producers are able to offer those prices for large volumes,” a distributor active in Europe said.
Global lithium market prices
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

December 04, 2020

13:22 GMT

London, Shanghai