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China Lithium Sees First Price Rise In Over A Month

After falling to their lowest level in 18 months in April and shedding some 70% from peak prices in November last year, lithium prices in China ticked up slightly on Wednesday for the first time in over a month, signaling a potential recovery in battery demand growth.

Based on data from Trading Economics, lithium carbonate prices slipped below CNY 175,000 per tonne this month due to strong supply and weak demand, while analysts have predicted a surplus for 2023.

Demand has been whittled away for this year due to Beijing’s move to end cash subsidies for household purchases of new electric vehicles. Due to that move, sales growth for NEVs dropped to 22% for the first quarter, YoY, after a phenomenal 93% surge last year.

According to Bloomberg, China lithium carbonate prices rose 1.2% on Wednesday, for the first time in five weeks, as new indications are that EV sales are on the upswing.

“There’s some pickup in buying from traders who think prices have bottomed, which supported lithium this week,” Jesline Tang, an S&P Global Commodity Insights expert told Bloomberg. Tang also noted that “there is talk of declining inventories at battery makers, which could drive restocking activity”.

A report released Wednesday by the International Energy Agency (IEA) shows electric cars sales up 55% in 2022 compared to 2021. The report also shows a 14% YoY increase in 2022 of the EV share of total car sales globally. 

That report appears to be giving legs to lithium prices, even if only to staunch the downward price trend, which has been battered by overproduction of batteries in late 2022 as producers took advantage of subsidies while they lasted. 

By Tom Kool for Oilprice.com

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