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Canada Industrial Capacity Use Fell in Fourth Quarter on Food

March 14 (Bloomberg) -- Canadian industrial companies’ use of their production capacity declined at the end of last year on a record drop in food processing and automobile plant shutdowns.

The share of plant capacity in use declined to 80.7 percent in the fourth quarter from a revised 81.1 percent in the third, Statistics Canada said today in Ottawa. The figure matched the median estimate in a Bloomberg economist survey predicted with nine responses.

Bank of Canada Governor Mark Carney softened his language about raising interest rates earlier this month, citing slower inflation. The central bank is relying on business investment and exports to lead economic growth through next year.

Capacity use at food makers dropped by 4.3 percentage points, a record quarterly decline, to 73.8 percent in the fourth quarter. The decrease was led by a drop in meat products, Statistics Canada said.

Transportation equipment capacity use fell 3.5 percentage points to 88.9 percent in the fourth quarter. Output at automakers declined 5.2 percent as companies took longer than usual seasonal shutdowns, according to today’s report.

Overall manufacturing capacity use fell to 80.2 percent in the fourth quarter from 82.3 percent in the third quarter.

Capacity use increased outside of manufacturing, including a 2.2 percentage point gain for oil and gas extraction to 85.7 percent. Forestry and logging rose 1.4 points to 87.8 percent.

Statistics Canada also reported today that the country’s net international debt decreased in the fourth quarter, narrowing by C$4.8 billion ($4.7 billion) to C$288.6 billion.

To contact the reporter on this story: Greg Quinn in Ottawa at gquinn1@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Christopher Wellisz at cwellisz@bloomberg.net; David Scanlan at dscanlan@bloomberg.net.

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