OTTAWA - Canada's trade surplus for December grew to $2.7 billion, more than double the previous month and its best showing since the height of the global financial crisis.
Statistics Canada said Friday that merchandise exports rose 4.5 per cent in December and imports edged up 0.8 per cent, pushing the country's trade surplus with the rest of the world up from $1.2 billion in November.
The agency said exports grew to $42 billion in December as volumes increased 4.9 per cent, continuing a upward trend that began last July. Imports increased to $39.3 billion as volumes rose 1.2 per cent.
"The strong finish to the year provides a nice hand-off for 2012 growth," Bank of Montreal deputy chief economist Dough Porter said.
"It appears that exports are grabbing the growth baton just in time from fading domestic spending."
Both U.S. exports and imports posted their highest levels since October 2008 as the trade surplus with Canada's largest trading partner grew to $5.5 billion in December from $4.7 billion in November.
Exports to the United States rose 5.3 per cent to $30.2 billion with higher shipments of crude petroleum, aircraft and precious metals, while imports from south of the border increased 2.8 per cent to $24.7 billion.
Exports to countries other than the United States increased 2.5 per cent to a record high of $11.8 billion. Imports from countries other than the United States fell 2.6 per cent to $14.7 billion, a result of lower imports from the European Union.
The trade deficit with countries other than the United States narrowed to $2.9 billion from $3.5 billion in November. It was the lowest deficit since December 2010.
Exports of machinery and equipment grew 9.2 per cent to $7.5 billion in December, the highest level of exports since March 2009. Shipments of aircraft, engines and parts led the gain.
Exports of industrial goods and materials rose 3.8 per cent to $10.5 billion in December. Shipments of precious metals and alloys, other fabricated materials, as well as iron ores, concentrates and scrap led the gain.
Shipments of auto products were up 6.7 per cent to $5.8 billion, the highest level since November 2007.
Passenger autos and chassis led the overall increase, posting a fourth consecutive monthly gain as a result of higher volumes.
Energy exports 1.7 per cent to $10.3 billion, with crude petroleum exports hitting as record high of $6.9 billion.
Imports of industrial goods and materials grew 2.6 per cent to $8.6 billion in December. Imports of automotive products rose 3.6 per cent to $6 billion on higher volumes. Imports of machinery and equipment increased 1.3 per cent to $10.9 billion.
Energy imports fell 7.5 per cent to $4.3 billion, the only sector to decrease in December. It was the second consecutive monthly decrease in the sector.