There was not much change to the overall wool market indicators last week.
The Australian Wool Exchange (AWEX) Eastern Market Indicator (EMI) closed five cents a kilogram higher in local currency terms.
But it fell 9c/kg in US Dollar terms and 11c/kg in Euro terms, as currencies moved in all sorts of different directions.
The US Dollar is getting stronger as markets anticipate higher interest rates shortly in America.
At home, lower iron ore prices and a more stubborn - or perhaps insightful - Reserve Bank of Australia are pushing the Australian Dollar down.
In Europe, the Euro is weakening against the US Dollar, which is making calculating wool prices a bit more challenging than usual.
Apart from the currency-induced gyrations, the wool market is a "ho hum" sort of affair at present.
Things are moving along nicely, with more than 90 per cent of the offering being sold.
Volumes are up substantially from last year, as are prices, and wool is gradually coming out of held stocks on to the market.
But there is no real spark, or urgency, about the trade at present.
Perhaps the exporters and processors are a little jaded as the calendar year draws to a close.
There are only four weeks of selling remaining until the Christmas recess in auction sales and things seem to be a little slower and more subdued than normal.
There is obviously no issue with Chinese quota this year, and the shipping cut-off was potentially last week - given the current abhorrent state of sea-borne transport.
The European market has been going "hell-for-leather" recently and, while there will probably be a last-minute flurry from them for the remaining superfine lots up until February, most of the Italian and German processors are just looking in cupboards and under beds for any prompt stock of tops or yarn that they have missed.
The few remaining combing mills in Europe have bulging order books, and delays in processing are more likely than not.
Those buying tops or yarn from China have a list of scheduled shipments as long as your arm, and this is getting longer as moving a container from Shanghai to La Spezia or Hamburg still takes close to three times the normal, pre-COVID-19 transfer and six times the cost.
Mills in China, that can, have a large export order business and are reticent to book too much more for fear of overloading their fragile production schedule.
Export business for Chinese early stage processors is seen as reliable but cashflow-restrictive, as well as quality-restrictive - compared to the domestic market where they can often turn over cheaper, lower quality product for quick cash.
Along with the faltering electricity lottery still plaguing some sections of the processing chain, labour shortages mean that many mills in China are not able to operate at anything like full capacity.
Owners lament that the younger generation does not want to work night shift, or is reluctant to turn up regularly at the factory.
When alternative employment opportunities are available, pushing trolleys or cans of wool around a noisy, dusty carding room is perhaps not the first choice for a millennial - despite how character-building the baby-boomer generation thinks it could be.
Coupled with a fairly lack-lustre domestic retail environment in China, the labour and energy issues make for a subdued appetite for greasy wool.
Medium Merino types are obviously seen as the best value fibre at present, and values for these are tending to rise strongly - along with the usual knitwear ingredients of pieces, bellies and carding types, if vegetable matter is not excessive.
Superfine Merino is still the luxury fibre that everyone wants.
But demand for this segment is not as frenetic as it was a couple of months ago.
Crossbred wools were coming back into vogue as a blend component, but now seem to be struggling a bit more.
Although, the Australian market has managed to sell a plethora of these types this year, compared to last season.
So, there is probably not a mountain of these in grower-held stocks, as some pundits were beginning to fear.
The biggest impediment to the Chinese domestic market at present would appear to be that dreaded little epidemiological particle called COVID-19.
People are just not able to move around China as they typically would - and have been until a month or two ago.
As Beijing counts down to the Winter Olympics, and COVID-19 ramps-up as the weather gets colder, the zero-tolerance policy gets more challenging to implement and the lockdowns get stricter and more frequent.
The Nanjing Wool Market Conference, typically held in September, was postponed until late November and will now be held virtually.
This means the usual gathering of buyers and sellers can't take place.
Garment and fabric buyers are also marooned in their city offices and are unable, or unwilling, to travel to the textile centres such as Zhangjiagang or Tongxiang this year.
A negative COVID-19 test in the past 24 hours is apparently required to book into a hotel in China at present, making business travel just that bit more difficult.
The big retail selling events in China have been and gone, with just the Black Friday sales to come.
Woollen garments did okay at these sales.
But the weather was not cold enough for the sale volumes to be great.
So, retailers are not screaming for more product just yet and, therefore, the processing fraternity is not clamoring for more greasy wool.
The export orders and the maintenance volumes for domestic are keeping things ticking over, but certainly not at a frenetic pace.
A big uniform order, or a restriction in supply, could certainly change the outlook quickly.
But until something like that eventuates, it will be more of the same.
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