Bounceback for Canadian exports after tough winter

by Theophilos Argitis

Canada’s trade sector posted a much-needed rebound, with shipments up across the board in what was a positive end to a tough first quarter for the nation’s exporters.

Exports jumped 3.2 percent in March, largely due to increases in volumes rather than prices, Statistics Canada said Thursday from Ottawa. The export jump offset a 2.5 percent rise in imports, helping to narrow the nation’s trade deficit to C$3.2 billion ($2.37 billion), from an upwardly revised C$3.4 billion in February.

Yet even with the improved picture for March, the data show a bleak first three months for trade, with the country recording its biggest quarterly trade deficit in almost three years. First-quarter exports were up 0.5 percent in nominal terms, but down 2.4 percent in volume terms.

Key Insights The March data are a reprieve for the battered trade sector, with export gains recorded in nine of 11 categories tracked by Statistics Canada. While higher crude oil production helped, the non-energy sector showed strong gains as well with exports up 2.1 percent in nominal terms and 1.5 percent in volumes. The improved export picture in March, however, masks downward revisions for exports in February and January that make the performance in those two months even worse than initially thought. Nearly C$900 million in exports were wiped off the books, with deficits revised up accordingly. The data suggest the trade sector will be a major drag on growth in the first quarter, as the drop in export volumes is compounded by a 2.4 percent gain in real imports. That’s one of the main reasons the Bank of Canada is estimating practically no economic growth at the start of the year.

Get More Export volumes were up 2.6 percent in March, driven by a 3.1 percent gain in crude oil exports. Non-energy export volumes were up 1.5 percent for the month. Import volumes were up 1.3 percent. Motor vehicle exports also made a comeback, generating a 5.6 percent gain on the month.

Canada’s trade surplus with the U.S. widened to C$3.6 billion, from C$3 billion in February.

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