Lithium price rout deepens with battery metal now down 75% this year

Lithium spot price slumped by 70% between November and its low point in April. (Stock Image)

Lithium extended an almost monthlong run of declines, taking its drop this year to 75%, with expectations the rout in the electric-vehicle battery metal is far from over.

Chinese prices of lithium carbonate, a semi-processed form of the metal, fell 2.3% on Thursday, and are down 20% so far this month. The last time they posted a daily gain was on Oct. 25. Spodumene, the lithium-bearing rock mined in Australia, has more than halved in 2023.

A supply glut has pushed down prices in 2023, after they surged in the previous couple of years. The global lithium market won’t return to deficit until 2028, according to forecasts from industry consultancy Benchmark Mineral Intelligence. Elevated interest rates are also leading to uncertainty over global EV demand, with some automakers rethinking their strategies.

“With lithium supply growing more next year, we are likely going to see prices falling further,” said Allan Ray Restauro, analyst at BloombergNEF. “On the demand side, some regional differences on EV sales have been dragging sentiment down around the industry.”

SQM, the world’s No. 2 lithium producer, warned investors last week the downward price trend could continue for the rest of the year. Albemarle Corp., the biggest miner, said earlier this month that some producers have started to rein in operations as prices fall below reinvestment economics.

(By Yvonne Yue Li and Annie Lee)

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