Seaborne lithium prices moved up further Jan. 25, driven by supply tightness in the global market.
Jumping prices in the Chinese domestic market, where most of the spot trade is concentrated, were also pulling international prices up.
S&P Global Platts assessed lithium carbonate at $45,000/mt Jan. 25, up $2,000/mt from Jan. 24 and $4,500/mt from Jan. 18. The assessment for lithium hydroxide was $42,000/mt Jan. 25, up also $2,000/mt from Jan. 24 and $5,500/mt from Jan. 18.
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 Shanghai port.
Offers were heard as high as $60,000/mt for lithium carbonate on an FOB China basis, although no concluded transaction has been heard at this level yet. That offer was equivalent to similar numbers heard within the Chinese domestic market.
A supplier source said Chinese domestic suppliers were not exporting because "domestic prices are a lot better.” The source estimated that consumers from overseas would need to pay not less than $50,000/mt to attract material made in China.
This rapid surge has been disorienting to some market participants.
“Prices are changing rapidly, even twice in the same day,” said a seller source who readjusted the lithium hydroxide offer level to $60,000/mt because of the recent bull run.
Although no deals were closed at this price, the source reported achieving transactions at over $43,000/mt CIF North Asia last week.
Despite the acceleration in the price uptrend in the past couple of months, “I stopped offering this week because the market is firming,” said a trader source, who gave an indicative offer for technical grade lithium carbonate at $50,000/mt since this was “in line with Chinese domestic prices for prompt delivery.” He added that battery-grade material would cost the same.
The Platts $45,000/mt assessment for battery grade lithium carbonate CIF North Asia was equivalent to Yuan 322,691/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 370,000/mt on Jan. 25, meaning seaborne prices are well below the Chinese import parity. The dollar was assessed at Yuan 6.3418 at 4:30 pm Singapore time.