Canadian exports reach record high despite trade war

Shipping containers at the Fairview Cove container terminal in Halifax on Feb. 11 2009

The U.S. trade deficit widened in June for the first time in four months as exports fell and imports grew.

"The widening in the trade deficit in June, after three consecutive months of narrowing, suggests that some of the transitory factors that drove those trends are starting to fade", Barclays said in a note to clients on Friday. Exports fell 0.7 per cent from May, while imports into the USA increased 0.6 per cent on the month.

On the other hand, it said shipments to the USA of autos - on which the US launched a formal investigation in June to consider tariffs - were the biggest contributor to June's growth in exports to the US market.

Many economists believe the looming trade dispute with China may also have contributed to an out-of-season surge in US soybean exports in the second quarter that could reverse going forward.

Unlike the overall data, the figures for steel and aluminum were not adjusted for seasonality.

Canada's largest trading partner, the United States, was the destination for a record $37.1 billion of exports, up 2.5 per cent - mainly because of passenger cars and light trucks.

"Canada's merchandise trade deficit narrowed from C$2.7bn in May to C$0.6bn in June".

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Statscan noted that exports to the US of Canadian steel products subject to the new tariffs plunged 37 per cent in June, after having surged 40 per cent over the prior three months.

Exports rose 4.1 per cent to $50.7 billion, with energy shipments up 7.1 per cent to the highest since 2014 and aircraft sales jumping by nearly 45 per cent.

The result could weigh on revised calculations of second quarter growth, which President Donald Trump hailed as a key achievement of his economic policies last week after it was reported as the strongest GDP increase in almost four years.

The trade surprise, when added to robust gross domestic product growth in May and June's six-year-high inflation number, adds to the likelihood that the Bank of Canada will increase interest rates this fall, economists agreed. They were boosted by imports of consumer goods and crude oil.

Exports to the United States were up 2.5 per cent month over month, lifting Canada's merchandise trade surplus with its neighbour to $4.1-billion from $3.3 billion. Aircraft exports alone were up 44.5 per cent to $984 million. Total imports were up 4.2 per cent compared with June 2017.

Total exports rose 9.2 per cent in June compared to the same month previous year.

After posting a record high in May, imports of aircraft and other transportation equipment and parts fell 17.1 per cent to $2 billion, returning to April levels, Statistics Canada said.

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