UPDATE 2-Canada trade deficit shrinks unexpectedly as oil price steadies

Thu Apr 2, 2015 10:30am EDT
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(Adds analysts' comments, background)

By David Ljunggren

OTTAWA, April 2 (Reuters) - Canada's trade deficit unexpectedly shrank to C$984 million ($781 million) in February from C$1.48 billion in January as energy exporters benefited from stabilizing oil prices, Statistics Canada data showed on Thursday.

The deficit was much smaller than the C$2.00 billion shortfall analysts had expected. Statscan also revised January's deficit down sharply from an initial C$2.45 billion, citing updated figures for energy exports.

Crude prices roughly halved between June and January, cutting revenues for Canada and other major oil-producing nations. Prices began to recover in February, helping drive up the overall value of the country's exports by 0.4 percent.

But in a sign of the continuing challenges that face the sluggish economy, overall export volumes dropped by 3.3 percent and import volumes fell by 1.7 percent.

Exports in the large automotive sector were down 15.1 percent, a likely concern for the Bank of Canada, which has long stressed the importance of non-energy exports if the economy is to hit full capacity.

"The only good news here was the revision to January's results," said Avery Shenfeld of CIBC World Market economics.

Exports of energy products jumped by 14.9 percent, reversing eight straight months of declines, on a 17.5 percent increase in prices. The month-on-month increase in energy prices was the largest since an 18.1 percent advance in December 2000.   Continued...