What didn't snap under China trade tension

Amid the wool market slide some strong points still remain


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China dominates our wool markets, but as it's eased its competition, what wool has kept selling well?

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AS the Eastern Market Indicator shed 163 cents a kilogram across last week's wool auction series to finish at 1513c/kg, some curious trends otherwise masked by China's buying dominance emerged.

The sudden decline across most of the market was attributed to the US-China trade war and uncertainty over Brexit.

ALSO READ: More wool market wobbles as EMI plunges to 1564c

However, wool types that suited Italy and Japan specifications, and non-mulesed types - although only a small percentage of overall volumes - continued to sell well.

Last week's Australian Wool Exchange Weekly Wool Market Report, published on Thursday, showed non-mulesed lines had significantly grown its premium, having finished 200c/kg above similar wool types.

"The highlight of the week, in an otherwise gloomy market, was the good support for non-mulesed types," the AWEX report said.

"A small number of buyers competed strongly for these types, pushing them 200c/kg higher than similar types."

However, upon closer inspection, it wasn't so much that buyers pushed the non-mulesed types higher - those types still lost ground, just not as much as the rest of the market.

A fortnight ago, non-mulesed types were fetching a 50c/kg to 100c/kg premium, equivalent to the amount they lost last week amid the falling market.

Yet, these types had a much softer landing, settling at their new 200c/kg premium.

As AWEX market information manager Lionel Plunkett explained, there were a couple of drivers behind this mulesed/non-mulesed price spread opening further, not least the rapid decline of the rest of the market.

"There was a premium there in the previous week (of 50c/kg to 100c/kg), but the gap's opened up," he said.

This was in a market which he said had "a reasonable amount of non-mulesed types available compared to in the past".

In addition, Mr Plunkett said the non-mulesed premium was across a range of microns, more so than normal.

But non-mulesed wasn't the only factor at play.

G Schneider, whose wool goes to Japan and Italy, was among the dominant buyers and its Australian managing director Tim Marwedel said from weaving through to knitting types, buyers currently had a choice.

With China's reduced presence, other buyers could meet their quality specifications first, which Mr Marwedel said remained their priority, then still have the choice of non-mulesed.

He also said the finer microns held up better because China largely targeted wools of 19-micron and broader.

The largest falls were seen in the 19-micron and broader categories, including a 157c/kg drop for 19-micron wool at Sydney and 167c/kg at Melbourne.

Comparatively, 18-micron wool at Sydney dropped 143c/kg and Melbourne only 117c/kg.

At last week's close, the EMI was 603c/kg below its lofty peak of 2116c/kg, reached on August 16 last year - a level well beyond which Mr Plunkett said anybody had initially expected.

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