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Canada’s trade performance remains bleak

Published by Brad Fougere on June 03, 2015

Merchandise Trade Release Notes – April 2015

Another decrease in April, combined with downward revisions to March’s trade figures, paint a gloomy picture for Canadian exporters. Driven down by lower prices, total goods exports in April fell by 0.7 per cent, settling at $41.9 billion for the month. Meanwhile, revised figures erased modest gains in March. As a result, exports have fallen for four consecutive months and are now at their lowest levels since last January.

Canadian Trade Summary
  Feb-15 Mar-15 Apr-15
Value ($ billions)
Exports 42.4 42.2 41.9
Imports 44.5 46.1 44.9
Trade Balance -2.0 -3.9 -3.0
Percentage change
Export prices 2.7 -1.6 -1.7
Export volumes -3.9 1.4 0.5
Import prices 1.9 0.5 -1.1
Import volumes -2.3 3.0 -1.8

Revisions to March trade figures meant that Canada’s record trade deficit for the month was even larger than originally believed. A monthly deficit of $3.0 billion was widened to $3.9 billion. The silver lining from a trade balance standpoint is that a 2.5 per cent decrease in imports in April helped to narrow the trade deficit somewhat – back down to $3.0 billion.

Much of Canada’s declining trade performance in recent months can be pinned on the impact of lower energy prices on the value of crude oil exports. This was not the case in April, however. A modest rebound in energy prices helped push crude oil exports 5.9 per cent higher than in March. Unfortunately, this increase was more than offset by sharp declines in shipments of consumer goods (down 6.0 per cent) and forest products and building materials (down 5.0 per cent).

Exports were down in most other major product groupings as well. International sales of metals and minerals fell by 5.8 per cent in April while exports of aerospace products (3.2 per cent) and chemicals, plastics and rubber producer (2.6 per cent) were also lower. On the other hand, there were modest gains in agriculture and food exports, as well as motor vehicles and electronics/electrical goods.

On the whole, Canadian exports from January through April 2015 are down 1.2 per cent overall compared to the first four months of 2014. For their part, imports have risen by 6.3 per cent over the same period.

On a provincial basis, exports were down all across Canada, with the exceptions of Newfoundland and Labrador and PEI. In the case of Newfoundland and Labrador, energy exports drove gains, with a 47 per cent spike. In PEI, the increase was largely due to higher sales of electronics/electrical equipment and aerospace parts. At the other end of the spectrum, Manitoba posted the largest month-over-month decline in exports. Its 17.4 per cent decrease was widely spread across a range of product types.

One encouraging note for Canadian exporters is that sales into the US market were up in April, albeit modestly. US-bound exports rose 1.6 per cent for the month. Shipments to China, South Korea, Norway and Peru were all higher as well. Meanwhile, sales to the European Union, Japan and Switzerland were all lower.

On the import side, sales of foreign goods into Canada were down in seven of the eleven major product categories. As with exports, there was a sharp decrease in imports of consumer goods (down 6.2 per cent) and metals and minerals (down 11.3 per cent). On a national basis, by far the largest decline was in imports from China, although shipments arriving from the United States and the United Kingdom were down as well.

Found in: StatsCan

National Office

Alberta British Columbia
Manitoba New Brunswick
Newfoundland & Labrador Nova Scotia
Ontario Québec
Prince Edward Island Saskatchewan