02/13/2015 10:18 EST | Updated 04/15/2015 05:59 EDT

Manufacturing sales up 1.7 per cent, beats economist expectations

OTTAWA - Statistics Canada says manufacturing sales rose 1.7 per cent in December, despite a sharp drop in petroleum and coal products.

The increase topped the gain of 0.5 per cent reading that economists had expected.

The federal agency says in the increase was fuelled by sales of motor vehicles, which gained nine per cent in December after falling in November.

Sales of machinery grew 5.2 per cent in December to their highest level since November 2011.

Excluding the petroleum and coal product industry, which fell 9.3 per cent, manufacturing sales were up 3.2 per cent.

Sales increased in seven provinces in December, led by Ontario, Quebec and B.C.