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INDUSTRY PULSE: Manufacturing activity pulls back in most industries

OTTAWA, Ont. -- Widespread decreases in production at Canada's refineries contributed to a 10.2% plunge in shipment...

OTTAWA, Ont. — Widespread decreases in production at Canada’s refineries contributed to a 10.2% plunge in shipments of petroleum and coal products in February. Shipments fell back to $4.4 billion, due in part to a 5.0% drop in petroleum prices, Statistics Canada records indicate.

“North America’s warmer-than-usual winter in 2006 has contributed to a marked decline in demand for petroleum and related products in recent months. As a result, global supplies of petroleum products have improved and by mid-February, the price of crude oil closed below US $58 per barrel for the first time in two months,” the government agency commented in its Daily Bulletin.

Shipments of wood products fell 7.3% to $2.8 billion, giving back most of the gains posted in January (+3.5%) and December (+4.6%), a period of rising prices for lumber products.

“Following a lacklustre 2005, the price of lumber products began to pick up in the latter months of the year as demand widely improved. Again, the warmer-than-normal winter has contributed to an active construction industry so far this winter. In addition, the rebuilding efforts in the wake of the destruction from last fall’s hurricane season in the southern United States have also generated a need for Canadian lumber in recent months,” Statistics Canada comments.

In February, demand for softwood lumber and particleboard began to weaken, contributing to lower lumber prices and the decline in shipments.

Other industries reporting lower shipments in February included food manufacturing (-3.2%) and primary metals (-2.2%).

Shipments of motor vehicles bounced back 3.4% to $5.6 billion in February, the first increase in four months. The increase reflected more of a return to normal activity following some temporary slowdowns of assembly lines in January.

Despite the increase, shipments of motor vehicles remained well off levels of last year. For the first two months of 2006, shipments were 9.7% below the level for the same period one year ago.

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