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INDUSTRY PULSE: Strong upward import trend pauses in early 2006

OTTAWA, Ont. -- Imports fell 4.6% to $32.0 billion in February as importers paused during a steep upward trend that...

OTTAWA, Ont. — Imports fell 4.6% to $32.0 billion in February as importers paused during a steep upward trend that began in early 2004, Statistics Canada trade figures indicate.

Imports of metals and metal ores, chemicals, trucks, and industrial and agricultural machinery, which surged in December and January, returned to more moderate import levels, resulting in a drop in imports from record-high values.

Within industrial goods and materials, imports of metals, such as gold and copper, and chemicals utilized in the manufacture of pharmaceutical products increased substantially in recent months. In February, these high import values subsided, with metals and metal ores falling 9.8% to $2.0 billion and chemicals and plastics declining 5.8% to $2.4 billion.

The demands of the oil and gas sector drove imports of industrial and agricultural machinery, as well as trucks, to record-high values in January. Imports of industrial and agricultural machinery, which contains equipment such as excavating machinery, metalworking machinery, drilling machinery and mining machinery fell 9.2% to $2.5 billion. Industrial and agricultural machinery posted substantial increases in the last two months of 2005 before peaking at $2.8 billion in January.

Imports of trucks and other motor vehicles fell 20.2% to $1.2 billion in February. Large shipments of mining trucks from the United States pushed truck imports to a record-high $1.5 billion in January.

Pharmaceutical products, which pushed up imports to a record in January, accounted for the 5.1% drop in other consumer goods in February.

Imports of energy products dropped for the third straight month in February, falling 8.1% to $2.5 billion. Imports of petroleum and coal products and crude petroleum contributed to the decline, each falling for the third consecutive month. As import prices for crude petroleum continue to grow, the fall in import values indicate a drop in demand from refineries in Eastern Canada for foreign sweet, light crude petroleum.

Canada’s two smallest import sectors (agricultural and fishing products and forestry products) lost ground in February, falling 2.7% and 2.0% respectively.

Agricultural and fishing products increased for five consecutive months to hit a record high in January, a month in which nearly all commodities registered an increase. In February, alcoholic beverages registered the largest gain, up 3.2% to $229.6 million, however, this was offset by drops in commodities such as dairy, coffee, and fish products.

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