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Automotive trade picks up steam in March

OTTAWA, Ont. -- Automotive trade, a valuable staple for Canadian motor carriers, led the rise in Canadian exports i...

OTTAWA, Ont. — Automotive trade, a valuable staple for Canadian motor carriers, led the rise in Canadian exports in March.

An increase of $200 million in passenger car exports helped automotive products achieve consecutive monthly gains for the first time since February 2003, Statistics Canada reported this morning. Most manufacturers reported export growth during the month, driven by strong sales in the United States, where the majority of Canadian car exports are destined.

Exports of motor vehicle parts increased to a lesser extent, while trucks and other motor vehicles declined only slightly.

Private housing starts in the United States grew again in March, contributing significantly to growth in both lumber and other wood fabricated material exports. The latter includes products such as plywood and oriented strand board, whose strong export prices have helped set record levels for the past two months.

Exports of industrial goods and materials also set a monthly record in March as a result of higher precious metal and alloy exports, mainly to non-US destinations. Despite a setback in metal ore exports in March, international demand and prices have been strong for most products in this sector since last year.

Machinery and equipment exports rose 1.3% as a strong month for aircraft, including engines and parts, was almost offset by lower exports of some finished products.

Merchandise imports increased in most major sectors in March, though Canada’s largest, machinery and equipment, cooled off 1.6% from its best month in a decade.

Automotive product purchases, mainly from the United States, led the import rise. Passenger car imports rose by almost $100 million, followed closely by both trucks and motor vehicle parts.

Higher imports of petroleum and coal products, partly price-induced, lifted the energy product sector, while crude petroleum imports rose only a slight 0.6% to $1.1 billion. This was the net result of higher prices and lower volumes.

Imports of consumer goods hit $3.8 billion on the strength of gains in apparel and apparel accessories (+3.1%), as retailers and merchants began accumulating seasonal inventory.

The biggest declines in imports occurred in machinery and equipment, where imports fell 1.6%. This was the result of fewer aircraft and transportation equipment imports, along with office machines and some other industrial machinery.

Within the industrial goods and materials component, higher metal and metal ore imports were offset by lower purchases of chemicals and plastics and a variety of other fabricated materials. This kept the sector unchanged at $5.6 billion.

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