Canada growth picture brightens on oil output rebound

Fri Jun 29, 2012 1:08pm EDT
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By Randall Palmer

OTTAWA (Reuters) - The Canadian economy grew by a surprisingly strong 0.3 percent in April, mainly due to a rebound in oil output, signaling growth in the second quarter might be solid but not rapid enough to jolt the central bank into raising interest rates.

Declines in retail sales and manufacturing had led to expectations that Statistics Canada would report a tepid reading on real gross domestic product on Friday. The median prediction in a Reuters survey was for 0.2 percent growth, and nine of 22 forecasts were for 0.1 percent or less.

The economy had shrunk by 0.2 percent in February, and grew by only 0.1 percent in March.

"Overall, the strong growth in April will provide a positive starting point to second-quarter GDP," said Charles St-Arnaud at Nomura Economics.

"However, the details show that when the rebound in the oil and gas sector is excluded, growth was only 0.1 percent month-on-month, suggesting slowing momentum. We continue to believe that the Bank of Canada will remain on hold at the July meeting."

In April, the central bank predicted annualized growth of 2.5 percent in both the first and second quarters. The actual figure for the first quarter turned out to be 1.9 percent, and analysts had downgraded expectations for the current quarter.

The bank reckons that the economy's potential is growing at about 2.0 percent a year, meaning that any growth that does not exceed that number will not soak up the modest excess capacity that is left in the economy.

"With April's results now in hand, the Canadian economy will still have to work to top the 2 percent growth mark in the second quarter, but the chances are quite a bit better after this report," said Robert Kavcic at BMO Capital Markets.   Continued...

Construction workers work on building new homes in Calgary, Alberta, May 31, 2010. REUTERS/Todd Korol