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OTTAWA (Reuters) - Canadian manufacturing sales recovered more briskly than expected in January after a weak December and inventories in the sector ballooned to their highest level on record, Statistics Canada data showed on Tuesday.
Factory sales climbed 1.5 percent in the month, the fastest pace in nearly a year and well above the market forecast of a 0.6 percent gain, making up for the revised 1.5 percent downturn in December.
The total value of sales, at C$50.4 billion ($45.4 billion), was still below levels seen prior to the 2008-09 recession.
The primary metal industry led the gains along with food and "miscellaneous" industries, which includes a range of industries such as sporting goods, medical equipment and toys. A sharp drop in motor vehicle sales partially offset the gains. Excluding autos, sales were up 2.2 percent.
In volume terms, factory sales rose 0.7 percent and 12 of 21 industries representing just under half of all the sector's sales posted increases, Statscan said.
Manufacturers' inventories grew by 3.6 percent in the month, the heftiest monthly gain since the data series began in 1992. The jump reflected higher stocks in almost all industries but was led by aerospace products and parts.
As a result, the inventory-to-sales ratio jumped to 1.42 in January from 1.39 in December.
New orders for factory goods rose by 2.6 percent and unfilled orders jumped 4.8 percent, the second straight month of hefty increases.
Reporting by Louise Egan and Alex Paterson; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama