GLOBAL LITHIUM WRAP: China’s producers target higher prices in March; Asian seaborne price rise continues

Chinese domestic lithium prices continued to rise in the week to Thursday February 25, supported by continued tight spot supply, and most producers are targeting even higher prices in March.

  • China’s domestic battery-grade lithium carbonate price increased by 9.9% week on week supported by a lack of supply. Most producers raised their offering prices again this week. 
  • The lithium hydroxide market in China followed carbonate price strength to increase by 5.2%. 
  • Suppliers to the Asian seaborne market gained confidence in pushing battery-grade lithium spot prices higher in the week.
China’s battery-grade lithium carbonate market maintained the upward momentum this week supported by continued tight supply. Most producers targeted higher prices for March sales and offering prices were up to 85,000-90,000 yuan ($13,156-13,930) per tonne.
Fastmarkets’ weekly price assessment for lithium carbonate, 99.5% Li2CO3 min, battery grade, spot price range exw domestic China was 75,000-80,000 yuan per tonne on Thursday February 25, up 9.9% from 68,000-73,000 yuan per tonne in the previous week.
“We are selling at 90,000 yuan per tonne for battery-grade lithium carbonate for March delivery, and I think lithium prices in March will remain at high level,” a producer told Fastmarkets.
A second producer said he was offering at 85,000 yuan per tonne for battery-grade lithium carbonate this week, citing limited available material for spot sales.
“Prices are surging this week, and I heard deals tending to close to 80,000 yuan per tonne for battery-grade lithium carbonate. Offers have become much higher,” a buyer said. “I will have some stocks on hand, so will keep watching for a while.”
The lithium carbonate 99% Li2CO3 min, technical and industrial grade, spot price range exw domestic China price pushed higher this week, reaching 70,000-75,000 yuan per tonne on Thursday compared with 65,000-70,000 yuan per tonne a week earlier. Market participants reported some offer prices as high as 80,000 yuan per tonne amid very tight spot supply.
The battery-grade lithium hydroxide price in China also moved up this week following the rising carbonate market. Most producers pushed up their offers to 65,000-72,000 yuan per tonne, but spot buying in the domestic market was absent while buyers digested the rise.
Nevertheless, Fastmarkets’ lithium hydroxide monohydrate, 56.5% LiOH.H2O min, battery grade, spot price range exw domestic China rose to 58,000-63,000 yuan per tonne on Thursday, from 55,000-60,000 a week ago.
“Battery-grade lithium hydroxide offering prices also saw a significant jump this week, and most offering prices are above 65,000 yuan per tonne. But with such higher prices I haven’t heard any deals concluded,” a second buyer said.
The spodumene 6% Li2O min, cif China price also rocketed by 12.1% in the latest monthly assessment to $500-520 per tonne on February 24 from $$450-460 per tonne at the end of January. This followed a 15.2% jump on January 27.
The increased demand for spodumene salts that caused this price surge has prompted some Western Australian miners to ramp up their production.
On February 25, Galaxy Resources in its report for the financial year 2020 said that its spodumene site in Western Australia, MT Cattlin, will ramp up production in response to stronger customer demand, improved pricing and reduced inventory levels.
Asian seaborne lithium prices rose further
The Asian battery-grade lithium carbonate market saw higher prices after most sellers cited a lack of spot availability for their increased offers. Fastmarkets heard of prices as high as $10 per kg this week.
Fastmarkets assessed the lithium carbonate, 99.5% Li2CO3 min, battery grade, spot price at $7.50-9 per kg on a cif China, Japan and Korea basis on Thursday, up from $7-8.50 last week.
“Asian battery-grade lithium carbonate prices are also moving up following the surge in China. We are even starting to see around or above $10 per kg this week,” a third producer said.
The Asian battery-grade lithium hydroxide spot price rose for a second consecutive week following its first movement in five months last week. Most suppliers insisted on offering prices of $11 per kg or higher, but spot trades were still limited.
The lithium hydroxide monohydrate, 56.5% LiOH.H2O min, battery grade, spot price, cif China, Japan and Korea moved up to $9.50-10.50 per kg on Thursday, from $9-10 per kg previously.
“I think most Asian buyers were unwilling to accept higher prices above $11 per kg for battery-grade lithium hydroxide as there are no fundamental supports for that price; hydroxide demand is not as strong as for carbonate,” a second buyer said.
Europe, US lithium spot carbonate price continues higher
European and US lithium carbonate spot prices rose again this week after sources across the supply chain continued to report tight availability on a spot basis.
The lithium carbonate 99% Li2CO3 min, technical and industrial grades, spot price ddp Europe and US increased over 20% week on week to $8.50-10.50 per kg on Thursday from $7.25-8.50 per kg the previous session.
The lithium carbonate 99.5% Li2CO3 min, battery grade, spot price ddp Europe and US increased by 2.6% to $9-10.50 per kg on the same day, narrowing up from $8.50-10.50 per kg a week ago.
“I think there is almost no availability of spot lithium carbonate technical grade in Europe, that’s the feeling I got talking to my company’s partners and suppliers and not heard of many spot transactions concluded,” a producer of hydroxide active in Europe said.
 
“I don’t think the [lithium] hydroxide market is currently under the same upward pressure as the carbonate market but they are very related so if carbonate [price] goes up, the hydroxide [price] goes up as well,” the same source added.
“It seems that the big producers do not have spot [carbonate] availability to offer as they are committed to their longer-term commitments,” a consumer said.
The lithium hydroxide complex was unchanged in Europe and the US over the past seven days after posting gains earlier in the month.
Fastmarkets assessed the lithium hydroxide monohydrate 56.5% LiOH.H2O min, technical and industrial grades, spot price ddp Europe and US at $9.50-11 per kg on February 25, unchanged for two consecutive weeks.
Fastmarkets’ latest assessment for lithium hydroxide monohydrate 56.5% LiOH.H2O min, battery grade, spot price ddp Europe and US stood at $10-11.50 per kg on February 25, unchanged for five consecutive sessions.

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 February 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

February 26, 2021

13:18 GMT

London, Beijing