04/30/2012 10:14 EDT | Updated 06/30/2012 05:12 EDT

Canadian economy shrinks slightly in February

Canada's gross domestic product declined by 0.2 per cent in February, which means the country's overall economy contracted.

Temporary closures in mining and other industries contributed to the decline, Statistics Canada said Monday. Economists had been expecting a slight 0.2 per cent rise in GDP, so the decline was a surprise.

The Canadian dollar fell more than half a cent to 101.4 cents US following the news.

Decreases in mining and oil and gas extraction, manufacturing, utilities, as well as forestry and logging outpaced advances in construction, the agency said.

Output in the oil and gas sector shrank by 0.9 per cent due to "unplanned maintenance activities in Alberta," Statistics Canada noted. Natural gas production also declined.

In the services sector, gains in finance and insurance outweighed declines in retail trade, transportation and warehousing. All in all, the goods-producing sector declined by one per cent, while the services sector expanded by 0.1 per cent.

The public sector was unchanged as gains in health services were offset by decreases in education services and public administration.

"Much of the decline was due to temporary shutdowns.These likely set up the Canadian economy for a stronger pace of economic growth in the near future," TD Bank economist Francis Fong noted.

"That being said, this is certainly not a positive way to begin the year."