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December shipment increase ends rough year on positive note

OTTAWA, Ont. -- A modest increase in December's manufacturing shipments capped off what has otherwise been a bumpy...

OTTAWA, Ont. — A modest increase in December’s manufacturing shipments capped off what has otherwise been a bumpy ride in 2003.

Shipments rose 1.0% to $42.7 billion, the first increase in three months, Statistics Canada reports.

Manufacturers’ prospects seem encouraging, however, as they continue to sign new orders, the government agency notes. Orders climbed 1.6% in December, the third boost in four months.

Fifteen of the 21 major groups, accounting for 64% of total shipments, reported increases in December.

Ontario led the six provinces and the territories reporting higher shipments in December. Manufacturers posted shipments of $22.7 billion, up $325 million (+1.5%) in Ontario, wiping out November’s 1.4% drop. The motor vehicle and chemical products industries were largely responsible.

Shipments in Quebec rose by $52 million (+0.5%) to $9.8 billion, the highest level since September. Aerospace manufacturing and quarter-end boosts in the computer industry were the primary contributors. New Brunswick also reported a strong gain in December, as shipments increased for the second month in a row to $1.1 billion (+5.8%).

Following a lacklustre 2003, Canadian manufacturers are cautiously optimistic regarding the outlook for the first quarter of 2004.

According to the Business Conditions Survey for January, business confidence improved and greater satisfaction was expressed for finished-product inventory levels and orders received, while 30% of manufacturers anticipated that they would increase production during the first quarter.

However, there was some trepidation noted regarding the low levels of unfilled orders.

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