Battery and Terminal Sector: Global new energy vehicle sales stood at 820,000 units in March 2022, up 43% month-on-month and 66% year-on-year. Pure electric vehicles accounted for 75% of the total, with 619,000 units being sold. By brand, Tesla, BYD and SAIC-GM-Wuling were the top three brands in terms of sales in March. However, affected by the pandemic in the Yangtze River Delta region, Tesla and SAIC were forced to stop the production, causing some capacity losses and inferiority to BYD in terms of year-on-year growth. By model, BYD occupied nearly half of the seats in the top 10 list, with the Group's fuel car production ceased to complete the full electrification process, and the company’s global competitiveness continues to improve.
Cobalt: Recently, the prices of cobalt salt dipped again, and the transaction of cobalt salt has been scarce in the past month. Cobalt salt factories have accumulated large stocks of finished products. With the recent decline in the coefficient of recycled materials, such cobalt salt factories tend to be cautious in purchasing raw materials and focus on clearing their finished product stocks.
On the demand side, the recent precursor production contracted significantly and the precursor manufacturers mainly digested in-plant stocks due to tight transportation capacity on the backdrop of spreading COVID and in light of large stocks built in March. In other words, demand from precursor factories fell, and the imbalance between supply and demand pulled down cobalt salt prices.
Lithium: The prices of lithium carbonate remained stable recently. After the Labour Day holiday, some manufacturers started the negotiations for long-term orders, and the market was generally wait-and-see. Some of the small and medium-sized factories and traders actively sold off in late April, hence the inventory levels now are lower than before, resulting in thin transactions. The circulation of low-priced lithium carbonate has been low. It is expected that the prices may change after long-term orders are settled.
The prices of lithium hydroxide were stable as well. After the Labour Day holiday, lithium hydroxide market was still in a stalemate, with overseas market offering support to upstream manufacturers. Downstream material plants were still reluctant to accept high raw material prices as it has been hard to transmit high cost to the terminal. There were fewer transactions in the market recently.
CAM and PCAM: PCAM (precursor of cathode active materials) prices dropped last week as the cost fell due to falling prices of cobalt, nickel and manganese. And a number of middle and small manufacturers reported almost zero small orders amid sluggish downstream demand. Production reduction or suspension has been normal recently in the PCAM market with no signs of recovery.
On the CAM (cathode active materials) front, NMC material prices dropped due to falling cost as the prices of PCAM fell. On the demand side, overseas orders were relatively stable, while some domestic battery factories were still lowering their NMC material stocks. Some battery factories did not resume the purchases in May, and some will further lower their purchases. Market inquiries and transactions were both weak.
LFP prices were little changed last week. The cost of LFP was relatively stable as the prices of lithium salt and iron phosphate stabilised. The manufacturing cost and market quotations were both high. Terminal demand was relatively sluggish amid the pandemic, and LFP manufacturers mostly produced for old long-term orders. Though some downstream manufacturers restocked after the Labour Day holiday with more market inquires, spot transactions were still poor.
Nickel: Nickel prices remained high after experiencing downs and ups with disturbances from the macro front. In terms of nickel salt, the operating rates of nickel sulphate manufacturers using MHP as the main raw material were still low. The goods available in the market were relatively low after the downstream purchased in a centralised manner recently. Most nickel sulphate manufacturers were still in losses though more low-priced raw materials were available recently. Nickel salt factories would hold their prices firm before the profit is fully restored.