Factories, bankruptcies up

Canadians got a rare scrap of positive economic news Thursday — manufacturing sales up for the first time since July — but the data behind the headline remained demoralizing and general financial pain, as measured by bankruptcies, kept intensifying.

TORONTO — Canadians got a rare scrap of positive economic news Thursday — manufacturing sales up for the first time since July — but the data behind the headline remained demoralizing and general financial pain, as measured by bankruptcies, kept intensifying.

The 2.2 per cent rise in manufacturing sales to $42.9 billion in February followed a wrenching 5.3 per cent drop in the previous month.

The gain came entirely from the Ontario vehicle and parts industries following widespread plant shutdowns in January. Excluding the auto sector, Statistics Canada said factory sales were down 0.2 per cent.

“While tempting to breathe a sigh of relief, the monthly result belies the ongoing weakness in manufacturing,” commented TD Bank economist Grant Bishop.

Meanwhile, bankruptcies across Canada swelled 22.1 per cent in February compared with a year earlier, according to the Office of the Superintendent of Bankruptcy.

And in addition to the 9,495 consumer and business bankruptcies, February saw 2,825 formal pleas to creditors to settle debts on easier terms, up 37.5 per cent from February 2008.

The tide of insolvency rose fastest in Alberta, with total bankruptcies and proposals up 55 per cent from a year ago, followed by British Columbia with a 45.8 per cent surge.