* Retail sales down 1.8 pct in December vs. -0.4 pct
* Sales ex-autos down 1.4 pct vs. 0.0 pct forecast
* Volume declines 2.2 pct
* Extreme weather hampered shopping in numerous sectors
OTTAWA, Feb 21 Extreme weather helped slash
Canadian retail sales by a seasonally adjusted 1.8 percent in
December, data which will help cement expectations that the
economy shrank in the month, according to a Statistics Canada
release on Friday.
The fall, the biggest in 12 months, was far worse than the
-0.4 percent median forecast in a Reuters survey of economists.
The volume of retail sales, relevant for real gross domestic
product, fell by even more, 2.2 percent.
December had already seen a 1.4 percent drop in wholesale
trade, a 0.9 percent fall in manufacturing sales, a 4.1 percent
decline in building permits, and a worsening in the trade
deficit to C$1.7 billion ($1.5 billion) from C$1.5 billion in
November. The weather was a factor in most of the declines.
The biggest decline in dollar terms was in the auto sector,
down 3.2 percent. Severe weather helped cut building material
and garden equipment sales by 8.2 percent and helped cut into
Christmas shopping in a number of sectors.