First quarter manufacturing shipments end on positive note

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OTTAWA, Ont. — Manufacturing shipments during the first quarter finished on a strong note, with a 2.8% gain (by value) in March over the previous month, Statistics Canada reported this week.

Shipments bounced back in March from the supply disruptions caused by the rail strike and the refinery fire in Ontario earlier in the year. For the first quarter, shipments were up 1.0% compared to the fourth quarter of 2006.

In March, manufacturers shipped goods worth an estimated $50.1 billion. Using constant dollars, which take price fluctuations into account, the volume of shipments rose 1.6% to $45.1 billion, the fourth increase in five months.

Shipments advanced in 15 of 21 manufacturing sectors, representing about 78% of total output, Statistics Canada reported in its Daily Bulletin.
In March, eight provinces posted higher shipments with much of the strength concentrated in Central Canada.

Ontario’s manufacturers made up some ground lost in recent months as shipments bounced back 3.6% to $24.4 billion in March, the first increase since December. The first quarter of 2007 has been lacklustre as shipments declined 1.8% compared to the same quarter in 2006.

In March, motor vehicle manufacturing contributed to Ontario’s boost in shipments. Assembly lines were busy as some newer models proved to be popular in North America. In addition, a major refinery returned to full production in March following the disruption caused by a fire in February.

Production of aerospace products and parts dominated Quebec’s manufacturing sector in March. Overall, shipments rose 2.2% to $12.0 billion, following a healthy 2.5% jump in February. Quarterly shipments were on par with the first quarter of 2006 (+0.2%).

Strong demand and soaring prices also contributed to increases in Quebec’s petroleum and primary metals industries.

Manitoba’s manufacturers posted a very strong month as shipments jumped 11.5% to $1.4 billion. Again, strong demand and rising prices contributed to big gains in Manitoba’s primary metals industry. In addition, healthy increases were also reported in the transportation equipment and miscellaneous industries. First quarter shipments jumped 14.5% in Manitoba compared to the same quarter in 2006, one of the strongest quarterly gains in the country.

Both durable and non-durable goods saw shipments increase in March. The petroleum and coal products industry continued to heavily influence the direction of non-durable shipments, with a 2.2% increase in non-durable goods to $22.4 billion. Durable goods increased 3.3% on the back of strong automotive and aerospace production.

After a slight increase in February, the transportation equipment sector surged 7.5% in March, recovering from the sharp loss recorded in January. Shipments increased to $10.4 billion, slightly exceeding the recent high reached in December 2006.

Unfilled factory orders, an indicator of probable future shipments, remained virtually unchanged from February, edging up 0.2% and remaining at the highest level since November 2001. New orders slipped 1.4% in March, giving up some of the gains from the previous month.

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