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Canadian Retailer Sales Decrease 1.8% in December on Weather

Feb. 21 (Bloomberg) -- Canadian retailers ended 2013 with their biggest one-month drop in a year amid severe weather that hampered the nation’s expansion in December.

Sales fell 1.8 percent to C$40.2 billion ($36.0 billion), Statistics Canada said today in Ottawa, compared with a 0.4 percent drop that was the median forecast in a Bloomberg survey with 20 responses. That followed a revised 0.5 percent gain in November.

Eastern Canada was hit by an ice storm in December, cutting electricity to homes in Ontario, Quebec and the Atlantic provinces. Canadian gross domestic product probably shrank in December because of the storm, economists estimate.

The economy had been emerging from an almost two-year slowdown, with annualized growth jumping to 2.7 percent in the three months through September, the latest reported data. Even with falling output in December, economists surveyed by Bloomberg News predict growth of about the same amount in the fourth quarter. Statistics Canada reports on quarterly output on Feb. 28.

Wholesalers in December recorded the biggest decline in sales in six months, the statistics agency reported Feb. 19.

Canada’s real estate association said Feb. 14 freezing temperatures kept prospective buyers at home last month, sending sales down 3.3 percent from December, which also saw a decline in transactions. Statistics Canada reported the same day that manufacturing sales unexpectedly dropped in December.

Toronto experienced the coldest December-January period in 20 years as temperatures in Canada’s largest city averaged minus five degrees Celsius (23 Fahrenheit). An ice storm in December cut power to 600,000 homes in Eastern Canada. Calgary reported the most snow in more than a century in December and temperatures in Winnipeg, Manitoba dropped below minus 30 degrees Celsius for 12 days last month.

Motor vehicle and parts sales fell 3.2 percent to C$9.28 billion in December, Statistics Canada said. Furniture and home furnishing retailers posted a 7.8 percent decline, while electronics and appliance stories saw a 13.1 percent drop in receipts.

Sales declined in nine of 11 categories making up 79 percent of retailing, it said.

Sales excluding motor vehicles and parts fell 1.4 percent. Economists surveyed by Bloomberg forecast a 0.1 percent drop for that measure.

The volume of sales, a measure that excludes price changes, fell 2.2 percent in December.

To contact the reporter on this story: Theophilos Argitis in Ottawa at targitis@bloomberg.net

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