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Wholesale sales rose 3 per cent in January to $44.4-billion, their strongest increase in three years.

Statistics Canada reports all sectors were up, but four accounted for 80 per cent of the growth: automotive products; building materials; machinery and electronic equipment, and "other products."

Sales in the automotive products sector grew 4.8 per cent to $7.8-billion in January, their fourth straight increase.

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Wholesale sales of building materials reached $6-billion in January, with the sector's three trade groups all posting increases.

Higher sales in the building materials sector coincided with a 5.8-per-cent increase in housing starts.

The machinery and electronic equipment sector posted a 2.6-per-cent increase, reflecting sharply higher sales in the machinery and equipment group.

Sales in the "other products" sector grew 4.1 per cent, largely due to a surge in sales of agricultural chemicals.

Except for Nova Scotia, all provinces posted higher wholesale sales in January.

Saskatchewan led the way with an 18.4-per-cent gain.

Wholesale trade inventories declined 1.1 per cent in January to $52.8-billion, their lowest level since December 2006. It was their 11th straight monthly decline. Over all, 11 of the 15 wholesale trade groups reported reduced inventories.

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