GLOBAL LITHIUM WRAP: Chinese domestic prices hit new low on sluggish downstream demand

China’s battery grade lithium carbonate and hydroxide prices hit fresh 2019 lows in the week ended Thursday July 11 with more producers lowering prices to boost sales amid subdued downstream demand and a negative short-term outlook.

  • Battery grade lithium carbonate spot price in China fell as low as 68,000 yuan per tonne. 
  • Technical and industrial grade lithium carbonate spot prices followed the downtrend, touching lows of 59,000 yuan per tonne. 
  • Asian seaborne prices unchanged.

China’s battery grade lithium carbonate spot price fell below 70,000 yuan per tonne for the first time this year on weaker demand from downstream consumers.

Fastmarkets assessed the lithium carbonate 99.5% Li2CO3 min, battery grade, spot price exw domestic China at 68,000-73,000 yuan ($9,902-10,630) per tonne on Thursday, down from 70,000-74,000 yuan per tonne the previous week.

“We have seen prices as low as 68,000-69,000 yuan per tonne for battery grade lithium carbonate this week due to the current low downstream demand,” a Chinese lithium producer told Fastmarkets. “Our prices remain as high as 70,000 yuan per tonne for the time being.”

“Downstream demand is extremely low and I think the reduction on NEV subsidies has had a great impact in the whole Chinese market,” a Chinese cathode market told Fastmarkets. “Current prices for battery grade lithium carbonate are between 68,000-72,000 yuan per tonne but some of the big producers still insist prices at and above 70,000 yuan per tonne.”

The transition period for the reduced new energy vehicle (NEV) subsidy for 2019 finished at the end of June, meaning manufacturers now receive lower incentives for producing EVs, and only for those with higher battery density and longer driving ranges.

Low demand and surplus of units also affected the technical and industrial grade lithium carbonate prices which fell week on week.

Fastmarkets assessed the Chinese domestic lithium carbonate 99% Li2CO3 min, technical and industrial grade, spot market price exw domestic China at 59,000-65,000 yuan per tonne on Thursday, down from 62,000-66,000 the week before.

The battery grade lithium hydroxide spot market also fell week on week due to low demand from downstream consumers and an existing surplus of lithium hydroxide units in the market.

Fastmarkets assessed the lithium hydroxide 56.5% LiOH.H2O min, battery grade, spot price range exw domestic China at 78,000-83,000 yuan per tonne on Thursday, down from 80,000-85,000 yuan per tonne the previous week.

“Weak demand and surplus of battery grade lithium hydroxide material in China keeps pushing the spot market price down,” a second Chinese lithium producer told Fastmarkets. “It has been hard to sell material throughout this period of slow demand.”

Micronized battery grade lithium hydroxide monohydrate material continues to trade at premium of 5,000 yuan per tonne on top of the standard grade price assessed by Fastmarkets. The highest price reported for micronized material this week was of 90,000 yuan per tonne.

Seaborne Asian market flat
The seaborne Asian battery grade lithium carbonate and hydroxide spot market was slow in the week to Thursday with prices reported within the current price ranges.

Fastmarkets assessed the lithium carbonate 99.5% Li2CO3 min, battery grade, spot price cif China, Japan and Korea at $10.50-12 per kg, while the hydroxide monohydrate 56.5% LiOH.H2O min, battery grade spot price remained at $13-15 per kg.

“Seaborne Asian cif China, Japan and Korea spot prices remained unchanged week on week on slow trading activity,” a trader told Fastmarkets.

Europe, US hydroxide price range lower
The European and US battery grade lithium hydroxide spot price range widened on lower price expectations, slow demand and cheaper material available, market participants told Fastmarkets.

Fastmarkets assessed the lithium hydroxide monohydrate 56.5% LiOH.H2O min, battery grade, spot price ddp Europe and US at $13-15 per kg, down $1 on the low end from the previous week.

“The lithium hydroxide market remains very slow in Europe and US and despite some conversations and negotiations we haven’t sold any battery material this week,” a lithium producer told Fastmarkets.

“We have been mostly active with technical and industrial grade lithium carbonate and hydroxide on a spot basis but there we find the same lower price expectation due to the cheaper material made available from China,” the producer added.

Despite the lower battery grade lithium hydroxide price range, market participants credited slow business and close to bottoming prices for keeping the battery grade lithium carbonate spot market price unchanged week on week.

Fastmarkets’ lithium carbonate 99.5% Li2CO3 min, battery grade, spot price was unchanged week on week at $11-13 per kg on a ddp Europe and US basis.

“Our battery grade lithium carbonate spot prices haven’t changed week on week due to the current slow consumption,” a lithium supplier told Fastmarkets. “The market is close to the bottom and we wouldn’t expect prices to move further down in the coming days.”

Fastmarkets’ trade log for battery-grade lithium carbonate in China for July includes all trades, bids and offers reported to Fastmarkets.

Learn more about Fastmarkets’ lithium pricing methodology here and read the latest lithium price spotlight here.

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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