December’s manufacturing sales slip from November’s record high: StatCan

OTTAWA — Canada’s manufacturing sales in December were $55.5 billion, which was down 0.3 per cent from a revised record high for November, Statistics Canada reported Friday.

“The surge in November, related to a rebound in automotive shipments after the October shutdowns, was not expected to continue through the year-end,” TD economist Michael Dolega wrote Friday.

Nevertheless, he said December was “still somewhat disappointing” with 11 of 21 manufacturing industries reporting declines and volumes down 0.1 per cent after adjusting for price changes.

The petroleum and coal product industry dropped 4.1 per cent to $5.7 billion in December, after five consecutive increases, Statistics Canada reported.

Food industry sales — the second-largest category tracked by the federal agency — dropped 2.6 per cent to $8.5 billion after the strongest November in years.

That was partly offset by a 1.3 per cent increase in transportation equipment, which rose to $10.7 billion — including $5.3 billion from motor vehicles and $2.59 billion from motor vehicle parts.

Sales were down in seven provinces including Quebec, which saw a 1.1 per cent decline to $13.2 billion. Ontario’s manufacturing sales were up 1.2 per cent to $25.7 billion while Alberta sales rose 1.2 per cent to $6.2 billion.

For the fourth quarter ended in December, manufacturing sales were up 2.8 per cent at $164.8 billion, including price increases. In volume terms, quarterly sales were up 1.1 per cent to $143.0 billion.

“On the whole, we remain cautiously optimistic for the Canadian manufacturing sector,” Dolega wrote.

He pointed to two contrary forces that will likely be at play: the positive stimulative effect of U.S. tax reform, and the negative effect of protectionist sentiment and uncertain trade talks between the United States, Canada and Mexico.

Statistics Canada will release further data next week that will shed more light on fourth-quarter economic performance. The December wholesale trade report comes on Tuesday and December retail trade on Thursday.

Its report on Canada’s gross domestic product for the fourth quarter will be issued March 2.

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