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INDUSTRY PULSE: March improvement halts two-months of trade slowdown

OTTAWA, Ont. Crossborder truckers can breathe a sigh of relief following the release by Statistics Canada Friday ...

OTTAWA, Ont. Crossborder truckers can breathe a sigh of relief following the release by Statistics Canada Friday of trade figures for March that show that imports and exports of merchandise goods both registered gains, halting two months of modest slowdowns.

Many carriers had been worried about lower-than-projected shipment volumes during the first quarter with most of the concern centred around freight headed southbound to the US.

Canada’s merchandise trade surplus with the world narrowed sharply as the value of imports rose at three times the pace of exports.

Exports increased 1.1% to $38.3 billion, while imports were up 3.6% to $33.1 billion. As a result, the trade surplus fell from a revised $5.9 billion in February to $5.1 billion in March.

An increase in machinery and equipment, primarily the result of strong aircraft exports, pushed up exports in March. Increases in imports of crude petroleum, machinery and equipment, as well as consumer goods and automotive goods returned imports to near-record levels.

After hitting a record high $41.3 billion in December 2005, exports had declined in January and February as shipments of passenger autos, aircraft and lumber retreated. Falling energy prices also contributed to the decline.

Imports, which rose rapidly last year as business investment boomed, slipped during the first two months of 2006. In March, importers resumed investment, with airlines’ fleet expansion fuelling a jump in aircraft imports and continued expansion in the natural resources sector driving up imports of industrial machinery.

Exports to the United States remained flat in March, while Canadian companies imported 2.5% more from south of the border than they did in February. As a result, the trade surplus with the United States narrowed from $9.0 billion to $8.5 billion.

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