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Wholesale trade sees surprise dip in January

Ford trucks reflected on the windows of a mini van at a Ford dealership in Mississauga

Fred Lum/Fred Lum/Globe and Mail

Weakness in the auto sector and agricultural supplies industry pulled down Canadian wholesale trade by 1 per cent in January from December, the second decline in three months following six consecutive gains, Statistics Canada said on Monday.

The decrease surprised market players who had forecast, on average, 0.3-per-cent sales growth in the month for wholesalers. In volume terms, sales were also down 1 per cent.

Six of the seven subsectors reported a drop in sales in January. Three-quarters of the decrease came from the motor vehicles and parts subsector and the miscellaneous subsector, which includes agricultural supplies such as fertilizer.

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Sales of motor vehicles and parts fell 3 per cent, not quite erasing the 3.7 per cent gain in December. In the miscellaneous category, sales fell 2.5 per cent mainly due to a 6.3-per-cent slide in agricultural supplies. Trade data show exports of fertilizer products plummeted 32 per cent in the month as weak global demand dampened prices.

Wholesale inventories grew 0.9 per cent, extending a trend that began at the start of 2011.

Compared with January of 2011, overall wholesale trade grew 4 percent and inventories expanded by 9.1 per cent.

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