Exports and imports to U.S. down in December

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OTTAWA, Ont. — Canadian companies sent $29.3 billion in goods to the U.S. in December, down 0.5 per cent, Statistics Canada reports.

Imports from south of the border also dropped – 3.6 per cent to $21.0 billion causing a rise in Canada’s trade surplus with the U.S. of $633 million to $8.3 billion.

Exports of automotive products fell 5.8 per cent to $7.4 billion in December. This was the fourth straight monthly decline and put December’s level 14.4% below the high for 2002 in August. The monthly trade surplus in auto products, which normally ranges from $1.1 billion to $1.8 billion, fell below $200 million in December, the lowest level since July 1995. This occurred in the wake of a surge in imported vehicles from the Far East, combined with extended Christmas season shutdowns in Canadian auto assembly plants.

Exports of passenger automobiles declined for the fifth month in a row, as American demand continued to soften and manufacturers struggled to realign production with inventory levels. Passenger auto exports fell 9.5 per cent to $3.5 billion, a 29.3 per cent decline since July. Exports of motor vehicle parts fell 0.8 per cent to $2.4 billion, as downtime increased at US assembly plants.

Exports of trucks and other motor vehicles declined 4.6 per cent to $1.5 billion. This followed a short-term increase in demand in the United States for trucks purchased before new, tougher emission standards took effect on Oct. 1, 2002.

Forestry products exports, another key market for Canadian carriers, bounced back from two consecutive monthly declines with a 2.9 per cent increase in December to $3.0 billion. Newsprint and other paperboard exports grew 7.3 per cent to $1.1 billion. Producers have actively curtailed newsprint output for the last two years, as they react to a slump in print advertising that has kept downward pressure on newsprint demand and prices.

Canada’s lumber exports rose 1.9 per cent to $851 million in December as construction of new homes in the United States shot unexpectedly to a 16-year high in December. The number of housing starts surged 5.0 per cent from the previous month to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1.8 million homes, the highest figure since June 1986, according to the U.S. Commerce Department.

In the machinery and equipment sector, exports fell 2.5 per cent to $7.7 billion. The decline was driven by aircraft, telecommunication and office machines. Lay-offs and slow sales in the aircraft and other transportation equipment sector led to a 14.1% decline in exports to $1.6 billion. Exports of telecommunications equipment fell 6.6% to $1.0 billion, coupled with an 8.0 per cent drop in office machines and equipment to half a billion dollars.

Exports of energy products increased 2.0 per cent to $5.2 billion. Natural gas exports to the United States jumped 4.4 per cent, as volumes increased and prices fell slightly. Crude petroleum exports rose 8.3 per cent to $2.0 billion.

Although imports from the U.S. declined in December, imports from all other major trading regions posted double-digit increases. This pushed up Canada’s trade deficit with countries other than the United States from $3.4 billion in November to $4.3 billion in December.

Imports of automotive products climbed 7 per cent in December to a record $7.2 billion. Strong domestic sales of cars built in Japan, Mexico and South Korea continued to boost the import of passenger autos. They rose 21.6 per cent to $2.8 billion, which was 49.1 per cent higher than December 2001.

Imports of trucks and other motor vehicles, which include ATVs and snowmobiles, increased a more modest 6.6 per cent to $1.1 billion, surpassing October’s record level.

Imports of motor vehicle parts destined for Canadian auto assembly plants, however, fell 2.4 per cent to $3.4 billion, the fifth straight monthly decline. During this five-month period, imports of vehicle parts dropped 15.6 per cent.

Imports in the largest sector, machinery and equipment, fell 3.5 per cent to $8.8 billion. Imports of aircraft and other transportation equipment fell slightly to $1.3 billion, but imports of aircraft, engines and parts rose 2.3 per cent to just under $1 billion. Imports of other machinery, which includes high-tech equipment, fell 5.0 per cent to $3.9 billion.

Imports of consumer goods fell slightly to $4.0 billion after record levels in October and November. Increased imports of apparel and footwear failed to offset declines in pharmaceuticals, house furnishings, printed matter and photographic goods.

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