Seaborne lithium prices continued rise on Jan. 11 as persistent market tightness led sellers to increase their offer levels further.
S&P Global Platts assessed lithium carbonate at $39,200/mt Jan. 11, up $200/mt from Jan. 10 and $5,100/mt Jan. 5. Lithium hydroxide prices were assessed at $34,700/mt, up $200 from Jan. 10 and $2,700/mt from Jan. 5.
The prices reflect the spot value of battery grade material on a CIF North Asia basis, referring to deliveries to the main ports of China, Japan and South Korea. Lithium carbonate, however, is normalized to deliveries at the Shanghai port.
Offer levels were heard as high as $55,000/mt CIF North Asia basis. However, no concluded spot transactions have been reported outside the Chinese domestic market in the past two weeks, reducing visibility on where the tradable value is and how it compares with soring offer prices.
Two buyers pegged the tradable value at the same $38,000-$40,000/mt CIF level for lithium carbonate and $35,000/mt for hydroxide. “Business is still very slow because the year has just started,” said one of them, who still had not searched for supply in 2022.
However, “there is not enough supply and this will not change this year,” which should keep supporting prices, he added.
“I just cannot see how supply can keep up with projected demand for this year,” agreed a trader source, who was offering technical-grade lithium carbonate at $47,500/mt CIF North Asia.
Several market participants expect demand to keep increasing faster than supply throughout the year. Supply issues could be softer in the second half as some new projects and expansions are expected to start up, but many sources believe 2022’s final balance will be a deficit.
“There will be a few new projects starting in the second half, so maybe we will see prices stabilizing a bit [by that time],” said a seller source, who heard about concluded transactions at $39,000/mt for technical-grade lithium carbonate and $36,000/mt for battery-grade lithium hydroxide.
“The hydroxide [seaborne] price is kind of equivalent to China’s domestic, but carbonate is still not,” the source added.
Platts $39,200/mt assessment for battery grade lithium carbonate CIF North Asia was equivalent to Yuan 282,305/mt on a DDP China basis, including 13% value-added tax, based on Platts import-parity calculation. The DDP China lithium carbonate price was assessed at Yuan 303,000/mt on Jan. 11, meaning seaborne prices are well below the Chinese import parity. The dollar was assessed at Yuan 6.3684 at 4:30 pm Singapore time.