Canada's trade deficit surges to record $4.1B in March

Canada’s trade deficit ballooned to a record $4.1 billion in March as an import surge in consumer goods, cars and car parts far outweighed Canadian exports.

Imports climbed six per cent to $51.7 billion, Statistics Canada said.

More than one-fifth of that was cars and car parts, which grew by their biggest monthly amount since 2011.

Imports of consumer goods also rose to a record $11 billion during the month. Numbers like that “suggest the housing related death of the consumer that some fret over isn’t happening by any stretch,” Scotiabank economist Derek Holt said.

Exports were also up by a significant amount, but not enough to offset the import surge. Exports rose 3.7 per cent in March to $47.6 billion. Canada sold more aircraft and other transportation equipment during the month, as well as more farm products, food and energy.

While Canada has a trade deficit with the world, with the United States the country has a trade surplus in goods. The surplus with the U.S. narrowed for the fifth month in a row, going from $2.3 billion in February to $1.7 billion in March, in part because of the slumping Canadian dollar.

It’s important to note, however, that the trade numbers the data agency put out on Thursday only include trade in goods. The Bank of Canada recently said the data agency will soon start monitoring and releasing numbers that include trade in services, too.

“The Bank of Canada will welcome this latest batch of trade figures,” Holt said, “as the details are a lot better than the headline.”

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