11/20/2014 08:48 EST | Updated 01/20/2015 05:59 EST

Wholesale sales up 1.8 per cent to $54.0 billion in September: StatCan

OTTAWA - Wholesale sales in Canada grew to $54 billion in September, up 1.8 per cent from August and easily topping the expectations of economists.

Statistics Canada said Thursday that the better than expected performance was led by the building material and supplies subsector.

Economists had expected an overall gain of 0.8 per cent, according to Thomson Reuters.

CIBC chief economist Avery Shenfeld suggested the increase could be enough to push September to a 0.5 per cent gain in gross domestic product for the month, adding that the retail sales results are yet to come.

"If that holds, quarterly GDP would be roughly two per cent, still a bit shy of the Bank of Canada's projection, but leaving solid momentum for the fourth quarter," Shenfeld wrote in a note to clients.

Retail sales results for September are expected Tuesday.

In its October monetary policy report, the Bank of Canada predicted the economy would grow at an annual pace of 2.3 per cent in the third quarter and accelerate to an annual pace of 2.5 per cent in the final three months of the year.

Statistics Canada said Thursday that six of the seven wholesale subsectors were higher, accounting for 83 per cent of the total. Excluding the auto sector, wholesale sales were up 2.4 per cent from August.

The building material and supplies subsector led the way as it rose 5.5 per cent for the month, while sales of machinery, equipment and supplies rose 2.2 per cent.

The personal and household goods sector and the miscellaneous group were both up 1.8 per cent.

The food, beverage and tobacco subsector added 1.1 per cent, while the motor vehicle and parts subsector lost 1.1 per cent.

In volume terms, wholesale sales edged up 1.8 per cent.

Sales rose in eight provinces in September, led by Ontario and Quebec.

Meanwhile, inventories were up for a ninth consecutive month, rising 0.5 per cent to $67.1 billion in September — the highest level on record.