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Merchandise Trade Analysis – November 2015

After three consecutive months of decline, Canadian merchandise exports rose slightly in November, lifted up by continued growth in sales of motor vehicles and parts, as well as a spike in foreign shipments of copper and potash. All told, merchandise exports rose 0.4 per cent to reach $43.3 billion, slightly above the revised $43.1 billion estimate for October.

merch trade chart image

Meanwhile, the falling loonie continued to drive up the cost of imports, prompting Canadians to buy fewer foreign-made goods. Import prices were up 0.8 per cent in November and are 7.7 per cent higher than they were 12 months earlier. As a result, Canadians have been adjusting their spending patterns, looking for homemade alternatives. Import volumes fell 1.6 per cent in November, led by declines in energy products, electronics and a range of consumer goods – especially alcohol and other beverages.

With the combination of higher exports and lower imports, Canada’s trade deficit fell from a revised $2.5 billion in October to just under $2.0 billion in November – its lowest level since July.

exports by month chart image

With only one month’s worth of data left to go in 2015, Canadian exports will almost certainly be down compared to 2014. Through 11 months, total shipments outside our borders are 1.4 per cent lower than at the same point last year. The good news is that this decline can be pinned almost entirely on the energy sector; non-energy exports are up 9.8 per cent through November and industrial goods producers have enjoyed a 12.5 per cent increase in foreign sales.

export growth by product chart image

Although overall exports were up in November, the gains were concentrated in three broad sectors of the economy. Once again, exports of motor vehicles and parts were up, rising by 5.9 per cent compared to October. Led by copper and potash, metals and minerals exports jumped more than 20 per cent, while producers of forest products and building materials also saw exports recover after a poor showing the previous month.

non energy exports chart image

Partly offsetting those gains were lower exports of energy products, consumer goods and aerospace products. The decline in energy exports was expected, given the recent drop in oil prices. For their part, consumer goods exports were down 4.5 per cent, while aerospace products fell by 6.8 per cent. Aerospace producers have seen foreign sales flag dramatically since the summer, with exports falling by nearly 28 per cent since July.

export markets growth chart image

November’s export gains were led by higher sales to the United States, which rose by $405 million (1.3 per cent). Asia-bound exports were also up, with significant month-over-month gains in Japan ($210 million), South Korea and China ($108 million each). Meanwhile, after rising for the past few months, exports to the EU were down considerably in November, led by decreases in sales to the United Kingdom and Germany.

imports nov 15 chart image

On the import side, the slowdown was not driven by the United States as might be expected given the decline in the Canada-US exchange rate. Rather, Europe accounted most of the decline in November. Imports from the EU were down $199 million, and sales from non-EU Switzerland fell by $163 million. Chinese exports to Canada also dropped by $114 million in November.

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