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Monthly Trade Report – March 2024

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Highlights

Data: Statistics Canada Tables 12-10-0011-01 and 12-10-0144-01. Balance of payments basis, seasonally adjusted.

Industry view - exports

Exports were down in 9 of the 11 product categories in March. Metal and non-metallic mineral products were a key contributor to the overall decline in exports, which plummeted 17.4% in March largely due to a $1.6 billion (32.5%) drop in the exports of unwrought gold, silver, and platinum group metals. This drop followed unusually high exports of unwrought gold to the UK and Switzerland in February.

Energy product exports also decreased in March (-4.9%), largely due to lower exports of crude oil and bitumen (-6.6%). This decline coincided with unexpected shutdowns at refineries in the U.S. Midwest.

Canadian exports of motor vehicles also fell 6.3% in March, as several manufacturing plants began retooling assembly lines to enable the production of new vehicle models. Exports of farm, fishing, and intermediate food products fell by 9.2%, reversing strong gains from the previous month.

Meanwhile, service exports also decreased in March, falling in all categories except government services. Notable declines were posted in the export of commercial services (-2.8%), and transportation services (-2.6%).

Data: Statistics Canada Tables 12-10-0121-01 and 12-10-0144-01. Balance of payments basis, seasonally adjusted.

Industry view - imports

Imports fell in 7 of the 11 product categories in March. Notably, imports of electronic and electrical equipment and parts dropped 8.1%, primarily due to a 23.0% decline in imports of computer and peripheral parts following high intake in February.

Metal ores and non-metallic minerals imports plummeted by 29.2% in March, reaching their lowest level since September 2021. This decline is largely due to reduced alumina and copper ore imports from Australia, Brazil, and Peru.

While ores declined, metal and non-metallic mineral products posted a 10.8% gain in March, thanks to higher imports of unwrought gold, silver, and platinum products. However, this growth was primarily driven by higher prices.

On the services side, imports of travel services dropped 4.3% as Canadian travellers lowered their spending at non-US destinations. Imports of transportation services also fell 2.8% amidst lower passenger fare expenditures.

Data: Statistics Canada Tables 12-10-0121-01 and 12-10-0144-01. Balance of payments basis, seasonally adjusted.

Global markets

Canada’s goods trade with the U.S. fell in March, with exports falling faster than imports (5.0% vs 1.1%, respectively). The decline comes amidst the monthly drops in major products traded between Canada and the US, such as motor vehicles and energy products. As a result, Canada’s goods trade surplus with the U.S. narrowed from $8.5 billion in February to $6.5 billion in March.

Goods trade with non-U.S. countries also dropped in March. Exports to non-U.S. countries fell 6.5%, impacted by lower exports to France (nuclear fuel), Switzerland (unwrought gold), and the United Kingdom (unwrought gold and crude oil).

Meanwhile, imports from non-U.S. countries edged down 1.3%, with noteworthy decreases in automotive imports from Mexico and Japan. In March, Canada’s goods trade deficit with non-U.S. countries widened slightly to $8.8B.

Data: Statistics Canada Table 12-10-0011-01. Balance of payments basis, seasonally adjusted.

Prices and volumes

Goods import and export prices were relatively stable in March, with lower volumes for both exports and imports driving trade declines in goods.

Export volumes dropped by 4.7%, accompanied by a 0.7% decrease in export prices. Similarly, import volumes decreased by 1.2%, while prices remained stable.

During March, the Canadian-U.S. dollar exchange rate further declined to 73.9 US cents per Canadian dollar.

Meanwhile, the average monthly price of crude oil for Western Canada Select (WCS) continued its upward trend for the third consecutive month in March, reaching $89.4 per barrel, reflecting a notable 13.7% increase compared to the previous month.

Data: Statistics Canada Table 12-10-0168-01. Balance of payments basis, seasonally adjusted.

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