Balance between Saudi bank deposits and loans turns negative for the first time since at least 2013

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China In-Focus — Stocks fall; Premier African Minerals to send lithium shipments to China

RIYADH: China stocks fell on Monday as a rise in domestic cases of COVID-19 dented sentiment, while concerns over policymakers exiting crisis-mode monetary easing also weighed.

The CSI300 index fell 1.9 percent to 4,344.26 at the end of the morning session, while the Shanghai Composite Index lost 1.5 percent to 3,307.23.

The Hang Seng index dropped 2.7 percent to 21,130.67. The Hong Kong China Enterprises Index lost 3 percent to 7,324.46.

Auto sales surged in June

China’s auto sales surged 23.8 percent in June from a year earlier, the first increase in four months after authorities cut taxes and offered subsidies to encourage car purchases as COVID-19 restrictions eased.

Sales in the world’s biggest car market rose to 2.5 million vehicles in June, data from the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers showed on Monday.

Sales for the first half of the year, hit hard by stringent lockdowns in Shanghai and other Chinese cities between March and May, were 6.6 percent lower than the same period in 2021.

June sales were up 34.4 percent from May, with sales of new energy vehicles such as electric vehicles, plug-in petrol-electric hybrids and hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles climbing 129.2 percent from the previous year.

However,  a slump in commercial-vehicle demand led China’s automobile industry association on Monday to downgrade its sales forecast, as anti-pandemic measures weighed on the economy and its car market, the world’s largest, according to Reuters.

Premier African Minerals to ship spodumene to China

Premier African Minerals will start shipping spodumene concentrate from its Zulu lithium mine in Zimbabwe to China by March 2023 after signing an offtake deal with Suzhou TA&A Ultra Clean Technology Co., its CEO George Roach told Reuters.

Zimbabwe holds some of the world’s biggest hard-rock lithium deposits, and Suzhou joins a growing list of Chinese firms that have invested in the southern African country’s battery minerals projects, including Zhejiang Huayou Cobalt and Sinomine Resource Group.

Roach said Suzhou is injecting $35 million for constructing a high-capacity pilot plant at Zulu, with an output of nearly 50,000 tons of spodumene concentrate annually.

The plant aims to ship the mineral by March next year and ramp up production to around 48,000 tons of spodumene concentrate a year.

In March, Suzhou became a 13.38 percent shareholder in Premier through a private placement in which it injected 12 million pounds ($14.37 million) into the company. 

The deal secures spodumene concentrate supply for Yibin Tianyi, China’s leading lithium chemicals producer, which Suzhou jointly owns with Contemporary Amperex Technology Co., the world’s largest electric vehicle battery maker.

The prices of lithium minerals, critical components in the manufacture of electric batteries, have soared in recent months thanks to a growing demand for clean energy sources. Zimbabwe, starved of investment for more than two decades, hopes its lithium resources will recharge its moribund economy.

(With input from Reuters)

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