But future outlook remains uncertain

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OTTAWA, Ont. — The March numbers may be very upbeat for shippers and carriers alike, but the future remains clouded.

Several factors have been lingering on the horizon for manufacturers. According to Statistics Canada’s latest Quarterly Business Conditions Survey for April, uncertainty best described manufacturers’ confidence regarding the outlook for the second quarter of 2004.

The recent strength of the Canadian dollar and the higher input costs as a result of near-record high crude oil prices have been major hurdles for the bottom line of manufacturers.

In addition, many industries dependent on steel as a key input have raised concerns of a possible shortage of the product and its escalating cost. This follows months of skyrocketing demand for raw steel by China.

Despite the foregoing, manufacturers seem to be holding their own. Global demand, particularly by the United States and Asia, has improved significantly over the last few months. Canada’s manufacturing sector has reported consecutive gains in shipments for February (+1.1%) and March (+3.4%). In the first quarter of 2004, shipments increased 1.3% compared with the January-to-March period of 2003.

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