Canada wholesale trade picks up in December on machinery sector

OTTAWA (Reuters) - The pace of Canadian wholesale trade accelerated in December in its third consecutive monthly gain, with increases seen in most sectors, including machinery and building material, data from Statistics Canada showed on Monday.

The 0.7 percent increase was in line with economists’ expectations, though November was revised slightly downward to 0.1 percent from the initially reported 0.2 percent.

Volumes in December were up 0.9 percent, which could support overall economic growth during the month, although fourth-quarter growth is likely to slow after a sharp rebound in the third quarter following the impact of May’s wildfires in northern Alberta.

Wholesale trade rose in six out of seven sectors, accounting for 82 percent of activity. The machinery, equipment and supplies sector led the way with a 2.5 percent increase, while the building material and supplies sector rose 1.4 percent.

Motor vehicle and parts declined 2.1 percent on weaker vehicle sales, the only sector where activity fell. But the pull-back capped a strong performance for wholesale motor vehicle and parts in 2016, which rose 8.8 percent for the year.

Wholesale trade as a whole was up 3.1 percent in 2016, the seventh annual increase in a row.

The figures for the year suggested the biggest impact from rebuilding efforts in Alberta has not yet been felt on wholesale trade, Statistics Canada said. Although there was a rebound in the lumber and building supplies industry in the last four months of 2016, exports of forestry products also increased, making it “difficult to conclude that the rebound was due to the rebuilds, which may not have fully started yet,” the report said.

Reporting by Leah Schnurr; Editing by James Dalgleish