Canada Retail Sales Post Biggest 2-Month Gain Since 2011

Canadian retail sales rose for a second month in February, registering the biggest two-month gain since 2011, on increased purchases at gasoline stations and new car dealerships.

Sales climbed 0.8 percent to C$39.5 billion ($38.4 billion), Statistics Canada said today in Ottawa, following a revised increase of 0.9 percent in the prior month. Economists surveyed by Bloomberg News forecast a 0.3 percent increase, based on the median of 21 projections.

The data suggest consumers may have recovered some confidence after December’s 2.2 percent decline in sales, the biggest drop in more than two years, and adds to evidence the economy may be gathering speed after ending last year with the slowest rate of growth since the 2009 recession.

“These back-to-back gains augur well for growth in the first quarter,” Paul Ferley, assistant chief economist at Royal Bank of Canada, said in a note to investors.

The Canadian dollar pared losses against its U.S. counterpart after the report and was little changed at C$1.0259 at 4:59 p.m. in Toronto, after dropping as much as 0.3 percent.

The Bank of Canada predicts growth accelerated to a 1.5 percent annualized pace in the first quarter of this year and will pick up to 1.8 percent this quarter, from 0.6 percent at the end of last year.

Higher Prices

In volume terms, sales were little changed, suggesting gains stemmed from higher prices. Statistics Canada also increased its previously-reported volume figures for January to show a 1.1 percent gain during the month, from little changed. That measure more closely reflects the industry’s contribution to real economic growth.

The volumes revision was “the most significant piece of data” in the report, Derek Holt and Dov Zigler of Scotiabank said in a report.

Sales were up 1.5 percent from a year earlier, Statistics Canada said.

Sales at new car dealers rose 2 percent in February, while gasoline stations recorded a 1.9 percent rise. Purchases excluding the motor vehicle and parts category increased 0.7 percent, faster than the 0.6 percent economists predicted.

Receipts advanced in seven of 11 categories marking 82 percent of total sales. Furniture and home furnishing stores led declines with a 2.5 percent drop in proceeds, suggesting a slowing housing market is having an impact on sales for that industry.

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