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OTTAWA (MNI)

Canadian retail and wholesale sales dropped in December according to flash government estimates Friday, confirming the second wave of Covid-19's drag on activity that the central bank says will carry over and shrink the economy in the first quarter of this year.

Retail sales fell 2.6% on the month, following the official November report showing a 1.3% increase. Statistics Canada also lowered the October gain to 0.1% from 0.4% and made smaller downward revisions to August and September.

There was no industry breakdown of the December retail decline, based on a survey of 59% of companies surveyed, though past flash estimates have often been very close to the official figures published later. The flash wholesale report for December showed a 1.7% decline in that category, which has a tighter relationship with monthly GDP figures, and was led by machinery and food.

Several provincial governments stepped up social distancing restrictions again in November and many of those requirements are still in place now, which kept some stores closed. Sales in November were 7.5% higher than the same month a year ago.