A very solid market across Australia last week saw the Eastern Market Indicator rise by seven cents in local currency terms and 10 US cents, although all fine Merino types were 20 to 30c dearer in Sydney, and up to 50c dearer in the west.
Cardings were also particularly strong in all three centres.
Medium Merino fleece and pieces were pulled back collectively by the higher fault lots, although again the numbers in the west were more positive than in the east, which usually points towards a stronger market in the offing for the following week, but also illustrates the slightly less congested state of export facilities over there compared with Sydney and Melbourne dumps and wharves.
Despite the local currency edging upwards against the US dollar, the positive tone of the Australian wool market was evident right through until the close on Wednesday last week.
Chinese, Indian and European buyers have all been active since the close of auctions on Wednesday, and with the currency markets moving just as dramatically as the global equity markets, trading wool has become just that bit more challenging.
Still, those traders with a bit of patience, and just a little luck have been able to match up their stock with the right timing on the currency markets, and get some more business booked.
Neither side, the export fraternity nor the overseas buyers are looking to book large quantities, but both are equally keen to keep the wheels turning and desperately hope that containers will get loaded and shipped more quickly than has been the case for the past two months.
Things are certainly moving better in China now, with lockdown conditions eased slightly in Shanghai over week.
Individual citizens are now allowed out of their apartments for some much needed fresh air, but they are still unable to venture far.
Private cars are not yet allowed on the roads, and no public transport is operational, so traffic is not the hassle it usually is.
Offices, shops and restaurants remain closed, so everyone is still working from home, but they are at least allowed to walk around the block.
The pleasing thing for the wool industry is that the hundreds of containers which have been lying at the wharf, or on ships banked up in the harbour are moving fairly swiftly to the mills now.
Production which had been delayed, or stopped in the case of some smaller mills, is now cranking up again as operators desperately try to make up for lost time.
Transport from one mill to another, or even across country is now possible, with certain conditions and plenty of paperwork, but it can be done.
So, the wheels of the Chinese textile industry are turning once again.
It remains to be seen what damage has been done to the volume of orders and more importantly the activity of consumers.
One report on a Chinese government website did record a drop in apparel clothing of 25 per cent for April, which is not a good sign, but those of us who have emerged from a sustained lockdown have also seen how active the recently uncaged consumer can be too.
The real test still remains September/October when the major retail season for woollen garments kicks in, and for those in China there will be a lot more testing and swabbing to be done in the meantime, with hopefully not too many further lockdowns.
The strain is also beginning to show in Europe, with most mills still very active, but the pressure is building.
In some cases labour shortages are acute, and the extra cost of employing new staff, with the flow-on effects of salary increases for the new workers too great to absorb in some cases, leading to a reduction in shifts because of the reduced manpower available.
Inflation across Europe is much higher than we are experiencing in Australia to date, and the energy-hungry textile industry is definitely feeling the effects of the Russian situation acutely.
Still, most mills across Europe are so pleased to have been able to operate without restrictions of COVID-19 for the past few months, so that despite these rising costs, it is head down, and run flat out for the short term while they can.
There are not many in the European textile scene, however, who are not at least a little wary about what the future holds, because of the inflation situation, the potential return of COVID-19 in the autumn, and the ongoing war in Ukraine.
Data from the world's largest consumer market, America, continues to be supportive for consumer activity, and if the Federal Reserve can manage the inflation risk adequately their consumption may be enough to drag the rest of the world along with them.
However, across the textile spectrum price resistance is being felt by the manufacturers.
Cotton is at such a high price level, and looks like going further, that some manufacturers are looking to substitute that fibre with alternative, cheaper polyester.
At the very fine end of the wool market price resistance is also being felt, although not so acutely, but it is there.
So the outlook for the near term remains positive, but storm clouds are building on the horizon.
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