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MNI (Ottawa)
OTTAWA (MNI)

Canada posted a surprise merchandise trade deficit in March as gasoline imports played catch-up following Texas refinery shutdowns, though the first quarter as a whole remained in surplus for the first time since 2016, government figures showed Tuesday.

The CAD1.1 billion March deficit ran against market expectations for a CAD500 billion surplus, following two rare surpluses of just over CAD1 billion in the previous two months. Imports rose 5.5% including a 55% jump in energy, while exports rose 0.3%.

Auto production was hampered by the global shortage of semiconductor chips, affecting both imports and exports, Statistics Canada reported. Aircraft exports also dropped 50% after two months where airlines sent little-used planes into storage in the U.S.

The CAD1.5 billion surplus for the first quarter as a whole, while small, bolsters confidence in projections for annualized growth of around 6.5%. A separate report Tuesday also showed building permits rose 5.7% to a fresh record high in March.

MNI Ottawa Bureau | +1 613-314-9647 | greg.quinn@marketnews.com