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Global Li: China’s battery-grade carbonate price firms

Jul 31, 2020 | 10:16 AM | Beijing, London | Carrie Bone, Cristina Belda, Dalila Ouerghi

Tags  lithium prices, EVs, battery raw materials, global lithium wrap

Chinese battery-grade lithium compound prices were stable in the week to Thursday July 30, with some carbonate producers keeping offers firm to test the market, while the lithium hydroxide spot price in Europe and the United States narrowed downward.

  • China’s battery-grade lithium carbonate and hydroxide prices steady during the week. 
  • China’s industrial-grade lithium carbonate price firm with offers at a high level, lending support to the battery-grade market. 
  • Limited fluctuation in Asian lithium spot prices but sentiment remains bearish. 
  • Europe, US lithium hydroxide price softens in quiet market.

Chinese battery-grade lithium carbonate producers continued to insist on firm prices this past week in light of a slight improvement in downstream demand and firm pricing for industrial-grade material.

This supported the lithium carbonate, 99.5% Li2CO3 min, battery grade, spot price range exw domestic China at 37,000-41,000 yuan per tonne ($5,281-5,852) on Thursday, unchanged from previous week.

Meanwhile, Fastmarkets’ lithium carbonate index, min 99.5% Li2O3, battery grade, exw China rose by 0.5% week on week to 38,593 yuan per tonne from 38,413 yuan per tonne, reflecting the offers at the high end of the assessment range. This was the second consecutive rise in the index.

“We are insisting on high offers of above 40,000 yuan per tonne for battery-grade lithium carbonate this week. Though buyers are unwilling to accept higher prices for the moment, we would like to insist for a while to test market acceptance,” a producer source told Fastmarkets.

“Purchasing prices from big buyers remain unchanged, but some small-sized buying prices might see a slight increase,” a second producer source said.

A buyer, meanwhile, said deals are still around 38,000 yuan per tonne despite the slightly higher offers, adding it would be hard for domestic battery-grade carbonate prices in China to pick up as overall demand remains slow.

China’s technical and industrial grade lithium carbonate price remained firm because producer inventories are at low levels. Fastmarkets assessed the Chinese technical and industrial grade lithium carbonate spot price at 31,000-34,000 yuan per tonne on Thursday July 30, unchanged from the previous week.

“We keep hearing higher offers for industrial-grade carbonate, but the real trading activity from downstream buyers is still thin as most buyers have already purchased material in previous weeks when prices were cheaper,” a trader said.

Fastmarkets’ corresponding 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 July 30, unchanged from a week ago.

Market participants said downstream demand has not improved significantly this week.

Asian seaborne lithium market quiet
The seaborne cif China, Japan and South Korea battery-grade lithium carbonate and hydroxide priced were also steady on Thursday.

Fastmarkets assessed the lithium carbonate, 99.5% Li2CO3 min, battery grade, spot price at $6.50-8 per kg on a cif China, Japan and Korea basis and the lithium hydroxide monohydrate, 56.5% LiOH.H2O min, battery grade, spot price stood at $8.80-10 per kg.

“I think Asian seaborne prices remain under pressure considering current slow trading activities, and continued lower offers, especially on the spot market. We haven’t purchased this week as we still have stock,” a second buyer said.

Europe, US lithium prices continue to soften
The European and the US lithium hydroxide technical-grade and battery-grade spot prices drifted lower in the seven days to July 30 following the bearish trend in a lithium market that is showing no sign of recovery.

Fastmarkets assessed the lithium hydroxide monohydrate 56.5% LiOH.H2O min, technical and industrial grades, spot price ddp Europe and US at $7.5-9 per kg on July 30, widening downward from $7.60-9 a week prior.

Fastmarkets’ lithium hydroxide monohydrate 56.5% LiOH.H2O min, battery grade, spot price ddp Europe and US followed suit, falling to $9.75-10.50 per kg on Thursday from $9.75-11 per kg a week prior. 

A seller active in both Europe and the seaborne Asia markets said he did not expect to see much recovery in prices before the end of this year.

“Although demand has never been totally quiet through the Covid-19 pandemic, [it is slower than usual] but we have received regular customers’ inquiries,” the same seller added.

The softening in prices is also a sign of European and US prices converging with the more liquid seaborne lithium Asia market which traditionally trades at a discount to Europe and the US.

The lithium carbonate spot market in Europe and the United States has remained static over the past fortnight at $8-9 per kg after falling at the beginning of July.

In other related developments, Swedish battery-maker Northvolt announced on July 29 the signing of a $1.6 billion debt raise sourced by a consortium of commercial banks, pension funds and public financial institutions such as the European Investment Bank. 

" The momentum for electrification is stronger than ever. Our customers need large volumes of high-quality batteries with a low CO2 footprint, and Europe must build a fully regionalized value chain to support them," Peter Carlsonn, co-founder and chief executive of Northvolt said. 

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 July 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.


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