Statistics Canada says trade deficit narrows to $1.5 billion in October

OTTAWA — Canada’s merchandise trade deficit narrowed more than expected to $1.5 billion in October as exports improved for the first time since May.

Statistics Canada said Tuesday that exports increased 2.7 per cent as imports fell 1.6 per cent for the month, shrinking the country’s trade deficit compared with the $3.4-billion shortfall in September.

Economists had expected a deficit of $2.7 billion for October, according to Thomson Reuters.

TD Bank economist Dina Ignjatovic noted that the recovery in export volumes in October fully erased declines in August and September and provides a stronger handoff for the fourth quarter.

“Looking ahead, exports should manage to gain some traction, supported by a healthy U.S. economy and a Canadian dollar hovering around the 80 US cent mark.

“Moreover, the strike at an auto assembly plant that weighed on exports through the first half of the month should lead to higher motor vehicle exports going forward.”

The Bank of Canada is scheduled to make its next interest rate announcement on Wednesday. The central bank is expected to keep its key rate target on hold at one per cent after raising it by a quarter of a percentage point twice earlier this year.

Ignjatovic wrote that the trade report, combined with last week’s Statistics Canada report that said 79,500 jobs were added in November, will be looked favourably upon by the Bank of Canada.

“With most other areas of the economy evolving as expected by the bank, higher interest rates are not far off,” she wrote.

Exports totalled $44.5 billion in October, as gains were made in nine of 11 sectors. Prices were up 1.5 per cent and volumes increased 1.2 per cent.

Exports of basic and industrial chemical, plastic and rubber products gained 12.4 per cent, while metal and non-metallic mineral products increased 4.5 per cent.

Meanwhile, imports fell to $45.9 billion in October, mainly due to a drop in motor vehicles and parts which fell 8.1 per cent. Import volumes fell 3.9 per cent while prices rose 2.4 per cent.

Statistics Canada said passenger cars and light trucks were down 8.8 per cent in October, while work stoppages and planned shutdowns in the automotive industry led to a sharp decrease in the demand for automotive components.