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INDUSTRY PULSE: Automotive, machinery and equipment sectors behind decline in exports

OTTAWA, Ont. -- Exports rose in only two of seven export sectors in April energy products and agricultural and fi...

OTTAWA, Ont. — Exports rose in only two of seven export sectors in April energy products and agricultural and fishing products, data published today by Statistics Canada indicates.

The largest contributors to April’s overall decline were automotive products, where exports fell 8.4%, and machinery and equipment, where they were down 3.2%. Both those sectors are key contributors to trucking revenues.

Exports of automotive products had been rising since July 2005, reaching their most recent peak of $8.0 billion in January 2006. Sharp increases in fuel costs and finance costs have depressed demand for vehicles in both Canada and the United States. In April, light truck sales south of the border declined 7.7%.

Exports of passenger autos, the largest component of the automotive products sector, registered their third consecutive decline in April. Trucks and other motor vehicles, and motor vehicle parts have shown a generally declining trend since July 2005.

Exports of machinery and equipment, Canada’s largest export sector, fell 3.2% to about $8.0 billion in April. The decline consisted primarily of a 7.7% drop in exports of industrial and agricultural machinery, and a 4.2% decrease in aircraft and other transportation equipment caused by a decline in aerospace production.
April’s decrease in exports of machinery and equipment followed an upward trend that began in June 2003, hitting its most recent peak of $8.2 billion in March 2006.

Exports of forestry products fell 1.6% to just over $2.8 billion, the third consecutive monthly decline after reaching their most recent peak of $3.2 billion in January. Newsprint and other paper fell 3.4%, while exports of lumber and sawmill products slipped 2.1% in the wake of a decline in residential construction south of the border.

Industrial goods and materials edged down 0.3% to just over $7.2 billion. Growth in metals and alloys was offset by lower exports of chemicals, plastics and fertilizers, and other industrial goods.

Exports of industrial goods and materials had been on an upward trend since June 2003. The growth in metals and alloys in April was the result of gains in both prices and volume. Within the commodity group, both zinc and copper reached their highest levels since January 2000.
On the plus side, exports of agricultural and fishing products posted a second consecutive increase with a 1.2% gain in April. It was driven by a 36.7% surge in wheat exports. Agricultural and fishing products have been virtually flat since April 2002.

Energy products grew 1.5% to nearly $7.2 billion. Exports of crude petroleum grew 2.8%, while “other” energy products (including petroleum and coal products, and other bituminous substances, and electricity) were up by 13.5%.

On the other hand, exports of natural gas fell 7.4%, the result of a 5.7% decrease in prices and a 1.8% decline in volume. Record high inventory levels in the United States depressed demand as well as prices of natural gas. The energy products sector has shown a sharp declining trend since October 2005.

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