SHANGHAI, Feb 7 (SMM) - Overseas cobalt prices were relatively stable during the Chinese New Year (CNY) holiday, and there were few cobalt salt transactions heard in the market. And the prices remained unchanged from the pre-CNY holiday level. On the other hand, many downstream companies have already restocked enough cobalt salt that could support the production until March ahead of the holiday. The concerns over logistics disruptions during the holiday also animated the trade market.
Cobalt salt prices are likely to rise further post the CNY holiday as the demand for intermediates will surge when the production is resumed. While the problems centring transportation by sea will stay, which will offer some support to cobalt salt prices.
Lithium market was stable during the CNY holiday, and there were few inquiries from the downstream.
Domestic lithium carbonate companies are expected to resume the production from maintenance in February, resulting in more supplies. The demand, on the other hand, will stay robust despite the slight production reductions of cathode active materials companies. Hence the prices will keep rising.
The prices of PCAM (precursor for cathode active materials) surged ahead of the CNY amid rising prices of cobalt and nickel salt. Nonetheless, the actual rise in prices was modest amid thin transactions. The major PCAM companies maintained high operating rates during the CNY holiday, while the mid and small-sized ones mostly suspended the production for 7-10 days. For CAMs (cathode active materials), the prices boomed due to quickly rising lithium salt prices.
It is expected that the output of PCAM will drop by 8-10% after the CNY holiday in February. The demand will also recover post the holiday, and the prices will rise amid growing purchases.
For CAM, most large-sized NMC materials manufacturers maintained high operating rates, while some of the mid and small-sized ones were closed ahead of schedule or maintained low operating rates amid high lithium salt prices, maintenance and less-than-expected orders post the holiday. Hence the supply of NMC and LFP materials is expected to fall 13% and 8.4% respectively in February month-on-month. And the prices will rise along with the growing costs when the production recovers steadily.