We have the pleasure of announcing that up to our latest dates the price of wool continued firm, and that at the London sales to commence on the 1st February there was a prospect of a rise. We give below a circular containing remarks upon the wool trade generally for the past year. Sperm oil was quoted at £ £75 5s. black oil at £35 5s. The tallow market was dull : some New South Wales had been sold at 37s. 3d. to 40s. 3d. per cwt.
Atherton's Buildings. a Building,
Liverpool, 1st January. 1844.
We are glad to be enabled to give quite as satisfactory a report of the state and prospects of the Wool Trade as we anticipated in our last Annual Circular. For the first six months of the year the main features of the woollen, worsted, and wool trades continued unaltered, and characterized by extreme caution in the purchase of all the raw materials used in the manufacture and production of goods limited, except to order.
The prospect of a good harvest, and the effects of cheapness and plenty upon the home trade, which were happily realized, gave a decided impetus to trade, in August and September, and the improvement in both demand and prices of wool which then took place, has since been maintained, and in some descriptions still further advanced, whilst stocks have run down to a very low ebb, and a large business, conducted with entire absence of anticipation or speculation, has marked the year of cheap provisions and steady employment for labour.
As we foresaw, we find that there is a considerable falling off in the imports of wool at this Port, the apparent equality with last year's being constituted of ballots of Alpaca or Peruvian wool, of 80 @ 100 lbs. weight. The causes of this deficit, we fear, are not easily to be surmounted, and we apprehend that nothing but higher prices, and the abolition of the absurd and injurious wool duty, will bring up imports to their former extent. We refer particularly to Peruvian, Buenos Ayres, and all the low Mediterranean wools, washed and in the grease. A duty of ½d. per lb. upon an article value here only 2½d, to 6d. per lb., added to the prime cost, expenses of transit, and landing charges, must be a prohibition to their regular import, during the continuance of low prices here; the duty driving the British importer out of competition with the Americans and French, who are now the two largest purchasers in Buenos Ayres, and forcing return cargos of low-priced wools into continental ports where this enormous tax is avoided, besides somewhat higher prices realized.
The suicidal short-sightedness of this barbarous impost is every year becoming more apparent. When it has dwindled to non-productiveness to the Exchequer, by excluding all low Foreign wools, it may possibly be abandoned by Government.
Australian wools being uniformly offered by public auction always meet ready sale, and these wools being to esteem with manufacturers, have commanded a steady advance in value during the year - prices, which had receded, being now fully equal to our quotations twelve months ago.
East India wools are in great favour with consumers and have sold with great spirit throughout the year, our quotations showing an advance of l½d. upon all the better qualities, since January last.
Alpaca and Peruvian wools continue to be so promiscuously entered at the Customs, that accuracy cannot be arrived at in estimating the imports of each. Taking the arrivals of Alpaca at 35,000 qrs., (8750 cwt.) this will show a large deficit of sheep's wool compared with previous years imports, the combined result of unremunerative prices, and the operation of the wool duty. The demand for Alpaca for export, to a large extent, this season deserves notice, as marking the in roads of foreign competition, on the English manufacturer, in a branch which he has had almost exclusively to himself, and again demonstrating the impolicy of levying 1d. per lb, import tax upon him, from which the foreign buyer is exempt. The effect of this new and large demand has been to raise the price of Alpaca to nearly the highest rates ever obtained for it. Portugal and Spanish wools must also be added to the list of diminished imports. The bulk of this class has been coarse Lisbon wool, this season, prices of Merino wools ruling too high for this market, and being chiefly purchased on French account, we believe.
We cannot foresee causes for any material variation from the present course and rates of business in the wool, worsted, and woollen trades for some months to come, which would be dangerous and undesirable on many grounds. In the present low state of stocks of wool, with the steady drain of consumption upon them the tendency of prices will be upwards, till the supply be better adjusted to the demand, or other causes affect general business, among which next harvest is one of the most influential, for good or for evil. As the two last plentiful harvests were the germ and cause of the present improved state of trade, so upon the next, under existing laws, its continuance depend. That a large business is doing, on improved terms, is admitted; still there is a cautiousness, amounting almost to mistrust, of the permanency of the present improvement, generally prevailing : purchases continue to he made, as it were, "from hand to mouth :" engagements are contracted to much narrower compass than formerly; and the whole attitude of business is defensive, and indicates doubt and want of confidence in the sources of demand and employment. There is not that activity and vigorous prosecution of business, that confidence and consciousness of the stability and soundness of our great manufacturing and commercial interests, that full occupation of machinery and labour, which used to
mark "good times," and which are the characteristic of a healthy and profitable trade, such as the capital, ingenuity, and industry of the manufacturing district are equal to sustain, were their limbs unfettered, and free scope given to their capabilities. Every trade feels this, and instinctively acts upon this impression; nor will it be safe or prudent in the manufacturer to do otherwise till the prospect is widened, and he possesses the power of free exchange with every customer and every country he trades with, free from the fetters of restriction, and able to negotiate on equal terms with foreign competitors wherever he may meet them ; whilst his home trade, created by the regular employment of capital and labour, is regulated and sustained by the sale of his surplus production in Foreign markets."
We are, Gentlemen,
Dawson and Hance
P 71 18 May 44
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