GLOBAL LITHIUM WRAP: Weak downstream markets keep prices stagnant

The Chinese domestic spot battery-grade lithium price stabilized on Thursday May 21 although downstream demand showed no improvement, while rest-of-world markets were flat amid thin trading opportunities.

  • China’s battery-grade lithium prices steadied after the previous week’s drops, but is under continued pressure from weak demand.
  • Asian lithium market flat with consumers in no hurry to buy.
  • Europe and United States markets held but market hopeful for a mild recovery.

China’s battery-grade lithium compound markets were steady over the past week due to a lack of trading activity.

Fastmarkets’ weekly price assessment for lithium carbonate, 99.5% Li2CO3 min, battery grade, spot price range exw domestic China was 41,000-44,000 yuan ($5,767-6,189) per tonne on Thursday, unchanged from the previous week.

This week’s stability followed a 2.3% drop last week from 42,000-45,000 yuan per tonne on May 15.

“Mainstream prices haven’t showed too much change this week for battery-grade lithium carbonate, but they are still under pressure as some materials produced from mica were heard with offers as low as 39,000 yuan per tonne,” a buyer told Fastmarkets.

“The lithium carbonate market hasn’t seen great fluctuation this week, and still lacks downstream demand. We haven’t adjusted our prices this week, but with month-end approaching, prices may still come under pressure,” a producer said.

Meanwhile, China’s battery-grade lithium hydroxide price was supported by producers insisting on current prices.

Fastmarkets’ weekly lithium hydroxide monohydrate, 56.5% LiOH.H2O min, battery grade, spot price range exw domestic China held at 48,000-54,000 yuan per tonne on Thursday

“I haven’t seen producers lowering their prices further this week, but pressure remains due to the sluggish market. It is unclear whether the market will soften further in the coming weeks,” a second buyer said.

The hydroxide market fell by 2.9% last week due to lower offers from producers and a drop in the micro-grade hydroxide price. Micro-grade lithium hydroxide typically trades at 5,000-10,000 yuan per tonne higher than battery-grade, a buyer told Fastmarkets last week.

Asian seaborne lithium market flat
The cif China, Japan and Korea battery-grade lithium spot market was flat with limited trading reported in the week to Thursday.

Fastmarkets assessed the lithium carbonate, 99.5% Li2CO3 min, battery grade, spot price cif China, Japan and Korea at $6.50-8.50 per kg, unchanged from a week ago.

The equivalent battery-grade lithium hydroxide monohydrate, 56.5% LiOH.H2O min, battery grade, spot price was also steady week on week $9-10.50 per kg.

“We still have some inventory on hand, so we are not in a hurry to buy and are still checking the situation. Prices are soft as demand is impacted by the whole stagnant market,” a distributor said.

Europe, US market steady but market hopeful of easing lockdown
There was very limited spot activity in the lithium markets in Europe and the United States, keeping prices in place on a week-on-week basis.

Fastmarkets assessed the price of lithium carbonate 99.5% Li2CO3 min, battery grade, spot price ddp Europe and US at $8.90-9.60 per kg on Thursday.

The lithium hydroxide monohydrate 56.5% LiOH.H2O min, battery grade, spot price ddp Europe and US price was similarly unchanged at $10.50-11.50 per kg on Thursday.

But a Europe-based source active in the upstream supply chain said: “[There are] early signs of a bit more activity in Europe as customers wake up after the lockdown. Let’s see in a few weeks if that is reality.”

A second Europe-based source echoed the same view, adding that: “We are very close to the bottom [of the price curve] anyway.”

Some European countries are starting to ease their restrictions, which should allow producers to resume operations in the electric vehicle sector.

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 May 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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