It was a week of consolidation for the Australian wool market last week.
The South African market had a big jump on the back of an increased supply of Responsible Wool Standard (RWS) certified wools, and the New Zealand market steadied and then lifted - as predicted - after large sales to China.
In typical fashion, the Australian wool market is seeing the good specification wools gain in price, Chinese types are "just there" and the lower specification wools containing excessive vegetable matter, colour, cot and jowls are beginning to see bigger discounts.
So, while the overall market indicator showed a rise of just 3 cents a kilogram in Australian Dollar terms, there were some decent rises of 60-70c/kg for the superfine wools, 30-40c/kg for some of the fine Merino indicators and the medium Merino price guides were up and down, depending on the centre.
The prices in the west were generally down a bit compared to the eastern states.
This is not because buyers can not get over there, but the smaller volumes in that sales centre at present mean some buying houses are fearful of not being able to complete a container in a week if they do start buying. So, they are instead choosing not operate in that market.
The crossbred sector again declined, despite the New Zealand market getting a boost as the plethora of crossbred lambs and fleece wool come on to the market - which is usual at this time of year.
The fact that these wools are finding a new home is a positive sign, and some of them are even changing hands in Uruguay after a long, slow and dull trading period over there - which may just be a promising sign of things to come.
Two distinct downstream markets are in operation at the moment, with the European processors still buying, processing and passing goods on to their customers with gusto.
The timing is right for them, with yarn needing to be spun now for fabrics to be knitted and woven in the next month or so, then garments created to order for delivery and sale in the new season after their summer holidays.
They are also mindful of the dwindling availability of their specification wools, particularly at the fine end of the clip.
Despite the Australian Wool Production Forecasting Committee releasing its estimate for 2021-22 at a healthy increase of 8.1 per cent above the previous year, a lot of this wool will contain higher vegetable matter, or other faults, making it less desirable for the European trade.
There is quite a bit of it being held up with wet weather as well at the moment - not that too many pastoralists are complaining with the 100-odd millimetres of rain some have received this week.
So, although the European market is cruising along quite well, its consumption of Australian greasy wool production both directly via greasy wool purchases and indirectly via top and yarn and fabric purchases from China and India is probably about 25 per cent of the total.
The other, and obviously major, sized market - being the Chinese domestic market - is spluttering.
Confidence has always been a key factor in the wool market, and it is beginning to wane across the Chinese textile scene.
As the Omicron variant inexorably creeps into China, prompting further government restrictions to stamp out the spot fires of infection, the threat of government-enforced lockdowns becomes more prevalent.
With the Chinese New Year also approaching, the migrant workers in many regions are downing tools and heading for their home regions to beat any potential travel restrictions.
Those orders still scheduled for production before the shutdown are dragging on and on, with some mills only operating at 30pc of typical capacity.
A lot of mills will actually cease production in the coming week and just hope that the workers do return following the spring festival.
Most mills plan to reopen on February 10. But it could be a long, slow and disjointed resumption.
The broader economic situation in China is beginning to have an effect on citizen's daily life, apart from those million or two still actually waiting in vain for an apartment to be constructed.
Government salaries are reportedly being reduced in some cases, and there is no quicker way to dampen consumer activity than to cut people's spending money directly.
Uniform orders are still working their way through the pipeline, and those companies lucky enough to have them are quite secure in terms of order books.
There is also expected to be a new, big batch of orders released in mid-March after the conclusion of the National People's Congress when there may be some changes announced - or perhaps not.
Either way, local demand at a retail level remains insipid and therefore the signals being sent back down the processing chain are generally negative.
So, although mills are beginning to close down, or have already closed for the forthcoming Chinese New Year period and to sit back and watch the Winter Olympics, their appetite to purchase new stocks of greasy wool for the restart of proceedings in a month's time is generally subdued.
So, the global wool market mirrors what is happening in a broader economic picture as well, with the developed world beginning to tighten monetary policy to ward off inflation at the same time that the People's Bank of China - in stark contrast - is lowering rates and pumping in money to stimulate a sluggish economy still reeling from the continued slowdown in property investment (20pc of GDP), softer consumer spending and Omicron risks.
Just how Beijing manages the Omicron situation in the next two weeks will be critical to the confidence of everyday citizens in China and, by default, the wool industry in Australia.
It would be fair to expect a hefty uptick in government spin, although some may call it propaganda.
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