BUYER demand returned to Western Australia's wool market week 48 sales with prices bouncing back after six weeks on the slide.
The patience of woolgrowers was eventually rewarded - throughout the past month growers had progressively withdrawn from sales styles of wool unlikely to find support in a very finicky buyers' market.
For the first time since April 8, all Western Wool Centre (WWC) micron price guides, including the Merino cardings guide, showed gains at the end of the WWC's only live-auction day on week 48.
Price rises ranged from 29 cents for 18.5 micron wools at 1401 cents per kilogram clean, to 39c for 19 micron wools at 1350c/kg, with the 21-micron price guide adding 38c to 1289c/kg and Merino cardings climbing 37c to 876c/kg.
The Western Indicator (WI) added 25c to 1239c/kg, recording its first rise in six weeks, according to Australian Wool Exchange (AWEX) statistics.
As Andrew Rickwood, technical controller at the WWC, pointed out in his regional market summary, the WA fleece market "followed the lead" of the previous day's Eastern States markets - when only AWEX's Melbourne and Sydney centres had traded - "and recorded solid gains across all Merino types".
With only Melbourne and the WWC trading, both markets surged initially on Wednesday, but the Melbourne market softened towards the end to such an extent the benchmark Easter Market Indicator eased 2c for the day.
Trading two hours behind Melbourne, the WWC market generally ignored the softening trend and powered on to the finish.
From a market perspective, perhaps more important than the across-the-board price rises, was the level of competition for the wool on offer at the WWC.
With only 2834 Merino fleece bales listed, buyers were less inclined to penalise over-length or average styled wools than they have been in recent weeks and with multiple buyers bidding for many lots, only 8.6pc of the fleece offering was passed in.
The overall sale passed-in rate of 10.5pc was skewed by a 56.1pc passed-in rate on 98 bales of cross-bred wool.
The full 69-lot Elders' fleece catalogue in the middle of the auction sold without a single lot passed in, which pleased auctioneer and Elders' wool sales manager south Alice Wilsdon.
"It was much better this week, a lot more positive, a lot more constant (bidding) and it was well supported, which is great," Ms Wilsdon said.
"There was a lot of noise, it wasn't just one or two bidders on a lot, it was three, four, five, which is awesome.
"The whole catalogue sold so we're very pleased with that result."
Primaries of WA auctioneer Terry Winfield commented after he left the rostrum on week 48 that he thought it was the best WWC sale for some time.
"It's certainly the strongest one I can remember in quite a while," Mr Winfield said.
Given the limited live-auction opportunities to buy wool at the WWC over this month and next - outlined recently in Farm Weekly - some brokers had believed it was only a matter of time before buyers were forced to accept what was on offer.
"It's not only that (fewer live-auction opportunities for buyers in the next two months)," Westcoast Wool & Livestock broker and auctioneer Danny Burkett pointed out.
"The buyers know that a lot of restockers have gone east (sheep sold through WA saleyards and trucked to Eastern States to rebuild flocks there once the drought broke)," Mr Burkett said.
"They were all shorn before they left so that wool's been through the system and gone and the buyers know it won't be there in November."
Week 48's strong market was in spite of Australian's currency rising against the US dollar, increasing the price of each wool bale leaving Australia and paid for in US dollars - which is nearly all of them.
The Australian dollar topped US66.6 cents on Tuesday on week 48, the highest it had been since February 20.
Local trader PJ Morris was the biggest buyer at the WWC on week 48, claiming 25.9 per cent of the bales sold, ahead of national trader Techwool Trading with 20.8pc.
Another local trader, Westcoast Wool & Livestock was third on the WWC buyers' list with 12.6pc of bales sold.
Two more local traders -Fremantle Wool Trading and Swan Wool Processors - and another national trader in Endeavour Wool Exports, followed on the WWC buyers' list before the first of the Chinese companies, Meliwa, in seventh place.
Usually, one of the larger Chinese indent buyers makes the top three on the WWC's weekly buyers' list, but not during week 48.
As previously reported, there are no wool auctions at the WWC this week, but the Melbourne and Sydney centres are trading, with the national offering down to 17,136 bales, 1692 fewer than was offered in week 48.
How the wool market reacts this week in Melbourne and Sydney will likely determine whether trading resumes at the WWC next week on two days or continues the four-week trend up until week 48 of just one live-auction day a week.
According to brokers, if the Melbourne and Sydney markets remain strong this week, more WA woolgrowers may put wool up for sale next week, resulting in enough wool listed for two sale days.
But if the Melbourne market continues to slide and the Sydney market follows suit, the WWC is likely to only trade one day next week.
Whether there will be one day or two days of live auctions at the WWC next week was expected to be confirmed after Farm Weekly went to press.
There will be no WWC wool sales again the week after next.
- Week 48's live online wool sales also saw their strongest sales at good prices.
WoolQ's two auctions on Thursday saw 40 bales of fine Merino wool sold under former Australian Wool Innovation chairman Wal Merriman's Merryville stencil, from near Yass in central New South Wales.
The top line of 17.8 micron fleece, described as AusfineAAAAM, sold for 852c/kg greasy (1437c/kg clean).
One line of 10 bales of Merryville pieces was passed in.
AuctionsPlus had a 100pc clearance rate for its online live auction, also Thursday of week 48, of 83 bales of Victorian wool for Nutrien Ag Solutions.
Elders has indicated it will have WA wool in today's AuctionsPlus online live auction.
- DESPITE declining auction offerings at the Western Wool Centre, Australian Wool Testing Authority (AWTA) statistics for May indicate wool production in Western Australia has declined less than in other major wool producing States.
ATWA tested 20,785 bales in WA in May, a 14.8 per cent reduction on the 24,401 bales it tested in May last year, but May bales tests were down by 33.1pc in Victoria - the main wool producing State - and 26.7pc in New South Wales.
They were also down by 45pc in South Australia and 31.1pc in Tasmania.
With only one month left in the season, AWTA has tested 347,344 bales so far in WA, a reduction of 4.5pc on the number of bales it tested up to the same point last season.
At 567,048 bales by the end of May, testing so far this season in Victoria is running 9pc down on last season and with 412,539 tested in NSW, bale test numbers there are down 7.9pc.
Test numbers so far this season are down 10.4pc in SA at 165,482 bales and down 15.7pc in Tasmania, but on production of only 36,272 bales.
The AWTA statistics also show the average wool yield in WA has eased less so far this season than in other States, down just 0.3pc to 61.3pc and just ahead of the average yield in SA of 61.2pc and in NSW of 60.3pc.
But average yield in WA is well behind Victoria with 64.4pc.
The average fibre diameter in WA so far this season is 19.2 microns, down 0.1pc, but average staple length has grown 1.2 millimetres to 85.1mm.
According to AWTA, 68.3pc of WA's clip so far this season has tested as superfine wool at 19.5 micron or less, an increase of 3pc over the same period last season and a significantly larger superfine proportion than the next closest state of NSW where 63.6pc of the clip is superfine wool.
The national average is 55.1pc superfine.