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OTTAWA (Reuters) - Retail sales were flat in March and actually fell by 0.8 percent in volume terms from February, in a much weaker showing than analysts had expected, according to Statistics Canada data released on Friday.
All 22 economists surveyed by Reuters had expected an increase of at least 0.4 percent, and the median forecast was for a 0.9 percent climb after February's 0.5 percent rise (revised from 0.4 percent).
The drop in volume terms is what will be used to calculate inflation-adjusted gross domestic product growth. GDP had been shaping up to be exceptionally strong for the first quarter.
Only four of 11 sectors rose, the biggest dollar amount being at gasoline stations because of higher prices. Motor vehicle and parts dealers added 0.3 percent on strength in new car sales.
Excluding the auto sector, retail trade declined by 0.1 percent. All the figures are adjusted for seasonal factors.
Reporting by Randall Palmer; editing by Howaida Sorour