* Trade deficit drops to C$901 million from C$1.67 billion
* Imports down 2.8 percent, exports off by 0.9 percent
OTTAWA, Feb 8 (Reuters) - Canada’s trade deficit in December almost halved to C$901 million from the previous month as imports dropped at a faster pace than exports, Statistics Canada said on Friday.
Market analysts had predicted a deficit of C$1.36 billion after a C$1.67 billion shortfall in November.
Trade, a crucial driver of Canada’s economy, has been hit by the strong Canadian dollar and weak markets. For 2012 as a whole, Canada posted a record trade deficit of C$11.95 billion, compared with a C$912 million surplus in 2011.
In December, imports dropped by 2.8 percent while exports fell by 0.9 percent, with both declines largely accounted for by lower volumes.
Imports of basic and industrial chemical, plastic and rubber products fell by 9.7 percent. Imports of motor vehicles and parts dropped by 3.9 percent because holiday season plant shutdowns were longer than in previous years.
Exports of energy products fell by 6.9 percent after four consecutive monthly increases, while shipments of motor vehicles and parts decreased by 6.8 percent.