April 16, 2020 / 1:54 PM / 4 months ago

Canadian manufacturing sales edge up 0.5% in February despite rail blockades, COVID-19

FILE PHOTO: Workers are seen at Bri-Steel Manufacturing, a manufacturer and distributer of large diameter seamless steel pipes, in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada June 21, 2018. Picture taken June 21, 2018. REUTERS/Candace Elliott

OTTAWA (Reuters) - Canadian factory sales rose by a surprise 0.5% in February, following five months of declines, even as rail blockades and the global coronavirus outbreak affected supply chains, Statistics Canada data showed on Thursday.

Analysts in a Reuters poll had forecast a decrease of 0.1%. Statscan said the growth was largely due to higher sales in the transportation equipment industry, which jumped 4.0%. Of the 21 industries monitored by the statistical agency, 11 reported sales increases.

Protesters blocked rail lines and roads across Canada for weeks in February to show solidarity with an indigenous group in the Pacific province of British Columbia who were opposed to a pipeline being built across their land. A tentative deal to end the dispute was reached in early March.

On Thursday, Statscan said the rail blockades and disruptions because of COVID-19 in February lowered total manufacturing sales by an estimated C$465 million ($331 million), or 0.8%.

Statscan said 11.9% of establishments in the manufacturing sector reported their operations were affected by the rail blockades.

Meanwhile, 9.2% of firms said the coronavirus outbreak had an impact on their business activities, in part, because of delays in raw material shipments from China.

Reporting by Kelsey Johnson; Editing by Dale Smith and Steve Orlofsky

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