OTTAWA — The composite leading index fell 1.3 per cent in March after a 1.4 per cent drop in February.
Statistics Canada reports the contraction in the manufacturing sector intensified as widespread cutbacks were implemented in the auto industry early in the new year.
The agency says this was offset by a marked slowdown in the fall of the housing and stock markets.
The sharpest decline was for new orders, down a record 10.3 per cent due to falling demand for autos, while falling shipments also lowered the ratio of shipments to inventories.
The agency reports preliminary data for February on the number of auto assemblies point to a rebound of over one-quarter of output.
The money supply remained the only component to expand, while the stock market continued its downward trend, dropping 2.3 per cent in March after five straight declines averaging nearly eight per cent a month.
The rate of decline of the housing index also moderated to 4.3 per cent in March from 7.7 in February. Sales of other durable goods also posted a much lower rate of decline of 0.6 per cent, as the rapid drop in auto sales late in 2008 began to level off early in the new year.