Canada industrial capacity-use rate jumps

Tue Jun 14, 2011 11:30am EDT
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By Louise Egan

OTTAWA (Reuters) - Canadian industrial capacity use rose in the first quarter to its highest level since late 2007 as manufacturers, particularly automakers, showed renewed strength following a year of slowing growth.

The industrial capacity utilization rate rose to 79 percent from a revised 76.8 percent in the fourth quarter of 2010, Statistics Canada said on Tuesday.

It was the seventh straight gain in capacity use and beat market forecasts of a 77.2 percent rate.

The data helped boost the Canadian dollar but economists were not overly enthused, reminding markets that the frothy conditions of the first quarter have since given way to flatter second-quarter growth.

"(The rate) will likely drop again in the second quarter given what we already know regarding supply shock effects related to Japan's earthquake and tsunami, and demand destruction influences upon U.S. markets," Scotia Capital economists Derek Holt and Karen Cordes wrote in a note to clients.

There was also a one-off boost in the first quarter resulting from a backlog of auto production in late 2010 caused by unplanned plant shutdowns.

Industries were still operating at below the range of about 80 to 90 percent of capacity seen between 1993 and 2007.

The big rise in capacity use in the first quarter was welcomed by markets after a year of marginal gains. The Canadian dollar strengthened to C$0.9697 to the U.S. dollar, or $1.0312, from C$0.9737 just before the data was released. It later gave back some of the gain.   Continued...

<p>A Chrysler auto worker uses an ergo-arm to load the seats into Chrysler minivans during the production launch of the new 2011 Dodge Grand Caravan's and Chrysler Town &amp; Country minivans at the Windsor Assembly Plant in Windsor, Ontario January 18, 2011. REUTERS/Rebecca Cook</p>