Lithium futures gather momentum amid EV battery metals boom

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CME Group Inc.’s lithium contract is showing the first signs of life since its 2021 inception as demand soars for battery metals key to the transition away from fossil fuels.

Open interest in the lithium contract hit a record high of 473 contracts on Wednesday, and extends out to February 2024, according to data from the Chicago-based exchange. A total of 541 contracts have changed hands since September, while unique participants such as banks, traders, and funds doubled last year, the bourse said in an email on Thursday.

Increasing liquidity in the lithium contract comes as booming electric-vehicle sales boost demand for the white metal even though prices have come down about 20% from an eye-popping record in November.

The exchange “has established itself as the venue of choice for managing battery metals risk, as evident by momentum” in both lithium and cobalt contracts, said Jin Chang, CME’s managing director and global head of metals.

In cobalt, another key battery metal, CME’s cash-settled contract continues to trade robustly. The contract has repeatedly breached record highs in open interest this year, while average daily trading volume so far is 377 contracts, a 454% increase from last year, according to CME.

The cobalt contract had 65 unique participants in 2022, more than double a year earlier. Through the first 11 trading days of this year, it’s seen 38 such participants active in the market, the bourse said.

(By Yvonne Yue Li, with assistance from Mark Burton)

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