Canada wholesale trade down 21.6% in April as coronavirus pandemic hits

OTTAWA (Reuters) - Canadian wholesale trade plunged a record 21.6% in April as the coronavirus pandemic shut down businesses across the country, Statistics Canada data showed on Thursday, but the agency said May’s data should not be as severe.

The data was much worse than expected. Analysts in a Reuters poll had forecast a decline of 12.6%. In volume terms, wholesale sales plummeted 21.5% to the lowest level since September 2009, a record monthly decline. The agency’s current data series began in 1993.

“As the largest component of Canada’s service sector, wholesale trade impacts the whole economy, while acting as the ‘invisible’ intermediary,” Statscan said in its release.

“May marks the second month of widespread lockdown and it is anticipated that reported impacts on businesses for the month will not be as severe as seen in April,” it continued.

Statscan said all seven subsectors tracked by the agency declined in April, while sales were down in nine of Canada’s 10 provinces.

Nearly 80% of wholesalers surveyed told the agency the coronavirus pandemic had affected their business.

Motor vehicle and motor vehicle parts sales cratered in April, dropping a record 64.7%, thanks to widespread manufacturing shutdowns and reduced demand.

Sales of personal and household goods also dropped, falling 21.5%.

Meanwhile, wholesale inventories, Statscan said, rose 1.2% in April, with five of the seven subsectors recording gains.

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