- NEV Jan-Aug sales jump 193% on year
- Spodumene reaches record high $2,444/mt
China’s domestic lithium carbonate and hydroxide prices rose in the week to Sept. 17 on strong electric-vehicle demand and scarce raw materials.
S&P Global Platts assessed battery-grade lithium carbonate at Yuan 170,000/mt and battery-grade lithium hydroxide at Yuan 160,000/mt Sept. 17, unchanged from Sept. 16, but up Yuan 20,000/mt and Yuan 12,000/mt from Sept 10, respectively. Both assessments were on a delivered, duty-paid China basis.
Since Jan. 8, lithium carbonate prices have increased 183% from Yuan 60,000/mt and lithium hydroxide by 202% from Yuan 53,000/mt.
Buoyant production and sales of new energy vehicles, or NEVs, were a huge contributing factor to the demand-side fundamental. According to the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers, NEV production over January-August stood at 18.10 million, up 192.8% year on year.
As prices of lithium chemicals increase in greater magnitude, it was observed that downstream users' resistance had also strengthened.
Market participants said besides lithium chemistries, prices of electrolyte, copper and aluminum battery parts, as well as nickel and cobalt prices are also on the rise.
S&P Global Platts assessed spot battery-grade nickel sulfate, with minimum 22% nickel content and maximum 100ppb magnetic material, at Yuan 37,500/mt, up Yuan 6,000/mt from Jan. 6.
Battery-grade 20.50% Co cobalt sulfate was assessed at Yuan 80,000/mt DDP China Sept. 17, up Yuan 20,000/mt from Sept. 7, Platts data showed. Both prices have been hovering at high levels due to bullish downstream EV sector demand.
Looking forward, market sources pointed to the Wuxi lithium carbonate futures contract as another indicator of further growth in physical spot market prices. “Wuxi futures has reached above Yuan 180,000/mt for November contract, market sentiments are bullish,” an international trader said.
As for raw materials, spodumene concentrate with 6% lithium oxide content (SC6) was assessed at $2,444/mt FOB Australia Sept. 17, up $1,044/mt from Sept. 10, Platts data showed.
Prices of spodumene increased after a recent historic high spodumene spot tender concluded at $2,240/dmt for 5.5% lithium oxide content. The tender was concluded on an FOB Port Hedland basis, for 8,000 mt loading in November. It is equivalent to $2,443.64/dmt for 6% lithium oxide content.
Tradable indications for 6% lithium oxide content spodumene were heard concentrated at $2,500/mt FOB Australia basis from domestic as well as international traders and consumers.
“The price of $2,300/dmt for (5.5% lithium oxide content) spodumene is reasonable for the market today since battery-grade lithium carbonate is already tradable at above Yuan 150,000/mt,” an international trader said.
Another Chinese refiner expressed willingness to place an indicative bid of $2,250/dmt for (5.5% lithium oxide content) spodumene to ensure the continuous production of lithium carbonate, given that it is more costly to restart operations without raw materials.
Given the positive outlook for lithium chemistry prices as well as tight upstream raw materials, market sources were eager to secure supply for September to avoid increasing premiums for October and November cargoes. However, many opined that raw materials were scarce in the market.
Although some market sources were cautious of the recent hikes in lithium prices, others were more optimistic, expecting the rise in raw materials prices would inevitably increase competition among battery makers and allow larger cathode makers to perform. Battery makers are also encouraged to be more cost-effective in their production process, a Chinese producer said.