* Canadian imports rise 1.2 percent, exports fall 0.2
* Imports hit record high; surplus with U.S. grows
* Canada has posted 16 consecutive trade deficits with March
By David Ljunggren
OTTAWA, June 4 Canada's trade deficit leapt in
April as imports hit a record high and exports edged down, a
further sign that exporters' woes are helping to crimp growth,
Statistics Canada data indicated on Tuesday.
The April deficit hit C$567 million ($550 million), slightly
more than the C$550 million shortfall analysts had expected.
Statscan also revised March's initial C$24 million surplus to a
deficit of $3 million.
The revision means Canada has posted 16 consecutive monthly
trade deficits as exporters struggle to cope with a strong
Canadian dollar and uncertainty in major markets such as the
United States and the European Union.
The Bank of Canada repeatedly expresses concern about
sluggish exports - a major driver of the economy - and cites
that as reason for keeping interest rates at near-record lows.
April's slight drop in exports followed a 2.6 percent
advance in March, which Statscan revised sharply downward from
an initial 5.1 percent jump. March's relatively strong numbers
helped underpin first-quarter growth.
TD Securities chief Canada macro strategist David Tulk noted
that net exports were still contributing to first-quarter
growth. But conditions were likely to become more challenging,
with growth expected to remain below its trend rate until U.S.
private sector demand improves, likely in the second half.
The data, along with unimpressive U.S. trade figures, helped
pull down the value of the Canadian dollar. It traded
at C$1.0323 to the U.S. dollar, or 96.87 U.S. cents, below
Monday's finish at C$1.0278, or 97.30 U.S. cents.
Imports rose 1.2 percent in April, the fourth consecutive
month-on-month advance, to a record C$40.84 billion. The
increase was led by imports of energy products, motor vehicles
Exports slipped by 0.2 percent to C$40.27 billion on lower
shipments of metal ores, energy products and industrial
Some analysts suggested the figures were not as downbeat as
they seemed -- export volumes grew 0.5 percent from March and
were up 3.9 percent from April 2012.
Peter Hall, chief economist at Export Development Canada,
said exports had grown at an annualized rate of more than 13
percent since last November.
Derek Holt and Dov Zigler of Scotiabank Economics said the
key question was whether trade volumes would hold up or whether
natural resource exports would stay volatile. Exports of energy
products, metal ores and non-metallic minerals accounted for
almost 27 percent of all exports in April.
"That's an open question, and one that matters increasingly
for the Canadian economy," they said in a note to clients.
Exports to the United States, which took 74.6 percent of all
Canadian exports in April, grew 1.8 percent, while imports grew
1.9 percent to a record high. The trade surplus with the United
States grew to C$3.87 billion from C$3.82 billion in March.
Exports to countries other than the United States dropped by
5.6 percent. Hall said he was watching China, where the
manufacturing sector shrank for the first time in seven months