Gloomy Canadian retail data shows recession biting

Thu Jan 22, 2009 1:17pm EST
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By David Ljunggren

OTTAWA (Reuters) - Canadian retail sales dropped by 2.4 percent in November from October, the steepest decline in nearly 11 years, and analysts said they expected worse to come as the recession starts to bite harder.

The November decline easily exceeded the 1.5 percent fall expected by market analysts and was the largest since the 4.5 percent plunge recorded in January 1998, when much of Eastern Canada was hit by an ice storm.

The value of sales at gasoline stations plummeted by 14.9 percent from October, reflecting lower prices. Sales at new car dealers fell 3.4 percent.

Excluding the automotive sector, which includes sales of new and used cars and parts as well as sales at gasoline stations, retail sales in November were flat. Overall retail sales in volume terms fell 0.6 percent from October.

"The slide in Canadian retail sales is expected to deepen in coming months, undercut by further job losses, wealth destruction and sagging consumer confidence," said Doug Porter of BMO Capital Markets Economics.

"Canadian consumers are certainly holding up better than their U.S. counterparts, but they are not indestructible."

Earlier this week, Statscan reported that the value of manufacturing shipments dropped by a record 6.4 percent in November from October.

"This report adds to this week's string of dour data out of Canada and suggests that the recession is now entrenched," said Charmaine Buskas, an economics strategist at TD Securities.   Continued...