Metals News
Quiet market keeps prices of cobalt, lithium products flat, lower on week
price review forecast
Feb 3,2019

SHANGHAI, Feb 3 (SMM) – Trading in the spot cobalt and lithium markets saw less movement during the week ended Friday February 1, the final week pre-CNY. This kept prices flat, or slightly lower from a week earlier, SMM assessed.

This week, domestic cathode materials plants told SMM that they received more orders from Japan and South Korea's producers of consumer batteries used in electric tools. Emerging consumer products, including electric tools, will be the key driving force in consumer battery demand in 2019, SMM expects.   

Some domestic battery producers said they would accept a cut of around 8% in the purchasing prices from automakers, given looming cutbacks in new energy vehicles’ (NEVs) subsidies. The two parties are still in the negotiation of the purchasing prices, as the national NEV subsidy policy for 2019 has yet to be unveiled. 

SMM assessed spot prices of refined cobalt at 320,000-335,000 yuan/mt as of Friday February 1, down 2,500 yuan/mt from a week ago. Weakened prices overseas and domestic thinner trades before holiday accounted for the decline. 

Cobalt salt traded rangebound, weakly this week as CNY breaks and lower prices of cobalt kept the market quiet. Spot prices of cobalt sulphate were assessed at 67,000-69,000 yuan/mt, and spot prices of cobalt chloride at 73,000-76,000 yuan/mt, both flat from last week. Prices of cobalt (II, III) oxide stood at 230,000-240,000 yuan/mt, down 10,000 yuan/mt on the week. 

Declines were seen in the prices of most lithium products, weighed by slower downstream purchases in the week ahead of holiday.

SMM assessed battery-grade lithium hydroxide at 99,000-112,000 yuan/mt, down 1,500 yuan/mt on the week, lithium cobalt (with 60% Co) at 280,000-290,000 yuan/mt, 9,000 yuan/mt lower from a week earlier. Prices of lithium carbonate stood stable at 76,000-81,000 yuan/mt this week. 

In the near future, intensified supply glut of cobalt worldwide, together with higher self-sufficiency of raw materials for Chinese cobalt smelters, are likely to further weaken the pricing power of foreign suppliers of ore raw materials, SMM forecasts. 

Mining giant Glencore maintains its 2019 production targets said its 2018 cobalt production jumped 54%, to 42,200 mt, due to the restart of operations in the Democratic Republic of Congo, according to the company’s full-year production report.  

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