GLOBAL LITHIUM WRAP: Tightness pushes China’s carbonate price higher; Asian hydroxide makes first move in five months

China’s domestic lithium carbonate price increased by 4.4% over the week to Thursday February 18 supported by tight supply in the spot market, while the Asian seaborne lithium hydroxide market moved up for the first time in five months influenced by China’s price upturn.

  • China’s domestic battery-grade lithium carbonate market continued its uptrend supported by spot material shortage, although buying activity remained thin after the Lunar New Year holiday.
  • The Asian seaborne battery-grade lithium hydroxide spot price recorded its first gain in five months due to increasingly higher prices reported in the market.
  • Europe, US lithium complex moved higher on growing tightness in spot availability.

China’s battery-grade lithium carbonate price uptrend continued unabated this week due to a lack of supply. Most producers said they had limited material for spot sales because much of the material had been sold previously. But on the buy side, buyers were largely yet to resume restocking after the end of the Lunar New Year holiday on Thursday.

Fastmarkets’ weekly price assessment for lithium carbonate, 99.5% Li2CO3 min, battery grade, spot price range exw domestic China was 68,000-73,000 yuan ($10,497-11,269) per tonne on Thursday February 18, up 4.4% from 65,000-70,000 yuan per tonne on February 4. The assessment was rolled over on February 11 due to the New Year holiday in accordance with Fastmarkets pricing holiday calendar.

“We are starting to offer at 80,000 yuan per tonne for battery-grade lithium carbonate post-holiday, and we don’t have many materials on hand for spot sales for the moment,” a producer said.

“We haven’t started offering post-holiday, and buyers haven’t started purchasing as they are just back from holiday. I think prices will become firmer in following weeks as a lack of spot supply [will become more apparent],” a second producer added.

Buyers concurred with estimations of the supply situation, with one buyer expecting prices to maintain at a high level for the first quarter due to the tight supply situation.

The lithium carbonate 99% Li2CO3 min, technical and industrial grade, spot price range exw domestic China price also rose this week, reaching 65,000-70,000 yuan per tonne on Thursday compared with 63,000-68,000 yuan per tonne on February 4. Some market participants reported offering prices as high as 72,000-73,000 yuan per tonne, but limited spot availability was seen.

The battery-grade lithium hydroxide price in China was stable after the holiday due to thin trades, but most producers predicted higher prices in the coming weeks considering the continued rise in the carbonate price.

Fastmarkets’ lithium hydroxide monohydrate, 56.5% LiOH.H2O min, battery grade, spot price range exw domestic China was at 55,000-60,000 yuan per tonne on Thursday February 18, unchanged since the previous assessment.

“Battery-grade lithium hydroxide prices haven’t changed much post-holiday, but if lithium carbonate prices continue rising, I think hydroxide producers will also push up hydroxide prices accordingly sooner or later,” a second buyer said.

Asian hydroxide price makes a move
The Asian battery-grade lithium hydroxide spot price rose by 5.6% on Thursday due to increasingly higher prices heard in the market after China’s domestic prices rose despite thin spot trades. Most suppliers increased offering prices and were unwilling to sell at lower levels.

Fastmarkets assessed the lithium hydroxide monohydrate, 56.5% LiOH.H2O min, battery grade, spot price, cif China, Japan and Korea at $9-10 per kg on Thursday, up from $8.50-9.50 per kg, a level it had maintained since September 17, 2020.

“Battery-grade lithium hydroxide prices are becoming higher despite thin spot trades as most suppliers increased offers following rising China’s prices. We even receive offers at $11 per kg late this week and it is hard to acquire materials at a lower level on spot sector,” a third buyer said.

There was limited fluctuation in the corresponding battery-grade lithium carbonate market since most material had been booked previously meaning there was minimal spot availability for the first quarter. Most suppliers stopped giving offering prices for carbonate due to a lack of supply.

Fastmarkets assessed the lithium carbonate, 99.5% Li2CO3 min, battery grade, spot price at $7.0 -8.5 per kg on a cif China, Japan and Korea basis on Thursday February 18, unchanged since February 4.

Europe, US lithium complex moves higher
The European and US lithium spot complex moved higher across the board on tighter spot availability reported by sources, except in the battery-grade lithium hydroxide market due to its limited spot trading patterns for the time being.

“Availability of [lithium carbonate] is indeed very tight in the EMEA region,” a lithium producer active in Europe said. “Consequently hydroxide availability is also getting more and more tight and prices are under upward pressure. For the second quarter I could imagine prices to further increase of another 15-20%.”

The lithium carbonate 99.5% Li2CO3 min, battery grade, spot price ddp Europe and US increased by 2.7% week on week to $8.50-10.50 per kg on Thursday, after holding steady at $8.50-10 for the previous two weeks.

Similarly, the lithium carbonate 99% Li2CO3 min, technical and industrial grades, spot price ddp Europe and US increased to $7.25-8.50 per kg on Thursday, after holding steady at $7-8.50 per kg for the previous three weeks.

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.

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