01/13/2012 09:19 EST

Canada Trade Surplus An Unexpected Surprise After Trade Deficits


OTTAWA -- A surge in Canadian merchandise exports led by the auto and energy sectors powered up a bigger-than-expected $1.1-billion trade surplus in November, far outstripping what economists had expected but still unlikely to have much impact on fourth-quarter growth.

Statistics Canada reported Friday that exports increased 3.2 per cent to $40.1 billion, with gains in most sectors, while imports declined 0.8 per cent to $39 billion, mainly because of lower imports of automotive products as well as industrial goods and materials.

The report stood in stark contrast to an October trade deficit of $487 million, the third time in the last six months that the trade balance has swung from deficit to surplus, noted TD Securities strategist David Tulk.

“Despite the improvement in November, export and import volumes suggest that net exports is unlikely to contribute positively to fourth-quarter real GDP,” Tulk wrote in a note to clients.

“The quarterly tracking shows an annualized 0.9 per cent decline in exports and a one per cent increase in imports. Paired with domestic fatigue, a softer trajectory for net exports is consistent with the theme of weaker growth heading into 2012.”

Exports of automotive products increased for a third consecutive month in November, rising 4.9 per cent to $5.3 billion, Statistics Canada said. Meanwhile, imports of auto products, industrial goods and materials and metals and metal ores were all lower.

“We had expected a reading in the black for November and the details confirm that a stronger pace of activity in the U.S. was a key driver of the month’s rebounding trade,” said CIBC World Markets economist Emanuella Enenajor.

“Higher energy exports also lifted the balance, although prices were the key driver for that category’s gains.”

The trade surplus with the United States rose to $4.6 billion in November from $3.5 billion in October. The trade deficit with countries other than the United States narrowed from to $3.5 billion in November from $4 billion in October.

Exports to non-U.S. destinations rose 6.7 per cent to $11.5 billion, mainly the result of higher exports to the European Union. Imports from those countries increased 1.3 per cent to $15 billion, the fourth consecutive monthly gain.

Exports to the United States rose 1.9 per cent to $28.6 billion, on the strength of energy products. Imports from the United States declined two per cent to $24 billion, largely because of lower shipments of automotive products.

Overall, exports of energy products increased 6.4 per cent to $10 billion in November, with shipments of crude petroleum up for a fourth consecutive month to a record high of $6.4 billion. Imports of energy products increased two per cent to $4.6 billion.

Exports of industrial goods and materials rose four per cent to $10.2 billion in November on higher volumes of precious metals and alloys, as well as other crude non-metallic minerals.

The increase was partially offset by a decline in volumes of fertilizers and fertilizer materials.