Dive in Canada factory sales signals growth slowdown

Fri Jun 14, 2013 10:36am EDT
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By David Ljunggren

OTTAWA (Reuters) - Refinery slowdowns helped push Canadian factory sales to their biggest monthly drop in nearly four years in April, signaling a weak start to the second quarter after strong economic growth in the first three months of the year.

Statistics Canada said on Friday that sales plunged by 2.4 percent in April from March, the fourth drop in five months and the biggest retreat since the 2.5 percent fall recorded in August 2009.

Canadian growth in the first quarter was 2.5 percent on an annualized basis, much higher than the Bank of Canada's 1.5 percent forecast in April. The central bank sees 1.8 percent growth in the second quarter.

Analysts, who had expected a 0.3 percent increase in month-on-month factory sales, variously called the April figures upsetting, ugly, very weak and disappointing.

"The month's factory sector weakness suggests April GDP could eke out, at best, an only mild gain," said Emanuella Enenajor of CIBC World Market Economics. Statscan will release the April GDP data on June 28.

April sales were down 3.3 percent from April 2012, while volumes decreased 3.5 percent over the same period.

The report came after recent data showed near record jobs gains and strong housing starts in May.

Factory sales were down in 13 of 21 industries, representing about 86 percent of Canadian manufacturing. Constant dollar sales fell by 1.6 percent on lower sales volumes.   Continued...

Petro-Canada's Edmonton Refinery and Distribution Centre glows at dusk in Edmonton February 15, 2009. REUTERS/Dan Riedlhuber