Eoin Treacy's view -
Prominent commodities research house Wood Mackenzie this week released a report on battery materials that forecasts a decline in the price of cobalt and lithium this year which would turn into a rout from 2019 onwards.
Woodmac is not lowballing demand growth for lithium and the authors expect demand to grow from 233 kilotonnes (kt) in 2017 to 330kt of lithium carbonate equivalent in 2020 and 405kt in 2022, but:
… the supply response is under way. Yet it will take some time for this new capacity to materialise as battery-grade chemicals. As such, we expect relatively high price levels to be maintained over 2018. However, for 2019 and beyond, supply will start to outpace demand more aggressively and price levels will decline in turn.
According to Woodmac data, spot lithium carbonate prices on the domestic market in China are already down 6% from December levels to around $24,500 a tonne while international market prices have remained robust rising to $16,000 at the end of February.
Lithium and cobalt represent the freshest iterations of the supply inelasticity meets rising demand condition that contributes to the cyclicality of mining ventures. Batteries are now big business and with Volkswagen saying this week that it is willing to outspend Tesla on batteries by the early 2020s the demand portion of the market is well affirmed.
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