There were positive signals for the Italian wool trade, according to data released for the first quarter of 2000, Woolmark reported yesterday. Exports of apparel, including wool apparel, increased, reversing the declining trend of the last two years. And although imports also increased, they did so at a slower rate than in the previous year.Exports of apparel (all fibres) increased by 4.6 per cent in volume in the first quarter of 2000 compared with the same period last year. Exports of wool items showed higher growth over the same period (5.7 per cent). This is an encouraging result but a confirmation of an upward trend must await data for further quarters in 2000, especially considering that between 1998 and 1999 the volume of apparel exports fell by 10 per cent for all fibres and by 13 per cent for wool. However, over the longer term, 'made in Italy' apparel maintained a strong export position. In the period between 1992 and 1999, apparel product exports increased by 9 per cent in volume and 62 per cent in value (not adjusted for inflation). In the meantime, imported apparel products increased at an average annual growth rate of 11.1 per cent during the last seven years for a total lift of 109 per cent from 1992 up to 1999. Imported wool items followed the same trend in this period with an increase of 90 per cent in volume and 116 per cent in value (not adjusted for inflation). In the first quarter 2000 imports of apparel (all fibre) increased by 3.8 per cent while imports of wool apparel were up by 12.2 per cent.