UPDATE 1-Auto plant closures help drag down Canadian factory sales

Wed Apr 15, 2015 8:39am EDT
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(Adds details of release, background)

OTTAWA, April 15 (Reuters) - Closures for retooling at auto assembly plants helped drag down Canadian manufacturing sales by 1.7 percent to C$50.04 billion ($40.03 billion) in February, the fourth drop in five months, Statistics Canada said on Wednesday.

Market analysts had forecast an increase of 0.4 percent. Statscan revised January's month-on-month decline to 3.0 percent from an initial 1.7 percent drop, citing new information from respondents.

Monthly manufacturing sales have fallen 6.8 percent from their most recent high of C$53.67 billion in July 2014, a clear sign the sluggish Canadian economy is operating well below capacity.

Sales of motor vehicles dropped by 14.9 percent to C$4.16 billion, the lowest since December 2012, thanks largely to closures for retooling at assembly plants in Ontario.

Output of aerospace products slumped by 25.7 percent to C$1.36 billion. Most contracts are in U.S. dollars and a sharply weaker Canadian dollar in January had boosted the value of production. This effect was not seen in February, when the Canadian currency proved to be more stable.

The volume of sales fell 2.5 percent. Overall sales were down in 10 out of 21 industries, accounting for just under half of all manufacturing. Inventories rose 0.9 percent to a record high of C$72.17 billion.

($1=$1.25 Canadian) (Reporting by David Ljunggren; Editing by Meredith Mazzilli)