Exports boosted by automotive rise

by Canadian Shipper

Exports of automotive products soared 8.0% to $7.5 billion in December, their second largest percentage gain of 2003, according to data released by Statistics Canada.

It was surpassed only by an 11% rebound in September following the mid-August power blackout.

Exports rose in all other sectors except forestry products, which declined 2.3%. The drop was due mainly to lower volumes of lumber and sawmill products, which include other wood fabricated materials, whose prices cooled off from their mid-2003 surge.
Higher exports of metal ores – nickel, copper and zinc, in particular – helped push up exports in the industrial goods and materials sector by 6.8% to just under $6.0 billion. Exporters enjoyed high prices for these products, despite the strong Canadian dollar.

Exports of machinery and equipment ended back-to-back monthly declines, with a 3.0% increase to $7.2 billion. Most products in this sector showed modest turnarounds, led by aircraft, engines and parts and other equipment and tools.

Natural gas exports hit $2.1 billion in December, up 19.1% from November, enough to offset declines in most other energy commodities. As a result, total energy exports rose 1.2% to $4.7 billion.

Crude petroleum exports fell 11.0% to $1.6 billion, despite a reported increase in overall demand. This drop was entirely volume-related, as prices remained strong.

Mad cow disease surfaced in the United States in late December, having the potential to exasperate Canada and US trade in beef products and live cattle. Though there was a small decline in imports of meat and meat preparations for the month, the impact has yet to emerge in monthly trade statistics.

Imports increased in most major sectors in December, but the most significant jump occurred in energy products, primarily natural gas.

Energy imports rose 7.0% to more than $1.7 billion, largely the result of higher imports of natural gas, destined mainly for the southeastern Ontario market. Natural gas imports into this region are not uncommon, as occasionally Ontario will supplement supplies to its southeastern corridor with imports from the United States.

Nevertheless, Canada is still a net exporter of natural gas. December’s purchases represented only a fraction of the $2.1 billion that Canada exported during the month.

Imports of automotive products rose 1.0% to $6.2 billion, recouping most of a 1.1% decline in November. Passenger auto imports increased 3.9%, enough to offset a drop in truck and other motor vehicle imports.

Machinery and equipment imports posted back-to-back monthly gains for only the second time in 2003. In December, they rose 1.1% to more than $8 billion. This is the largest import sector and it accounts for almost 30% of all imports. Imports of aircraft, engines and parts continued to rebound, rising 26.2% to over $700 million.

Increases in metals and metal ores (including steel rods and bars, metals in ores and other iron and steel products) were responsible for the overall 1.9% increase in imports of industrial goods and materials.

The most significant drop in imports occurred in consumer goods, which fell 3.6% to $3.8 billion. Imports of apparel and footwear declined on lower volumes, as most arrive before the peak winter season.

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