Thursday's trade data for December released by Statistics Canada was not the news that the Canadian economy wanted to hear. While the weaker Canadian dollar helps the export sector, it also makes imports more expensive, with December's data taking economists off-guard.
Canada's trade deficit increased to $1.66 billion in December, while analysts are reported to have forecast a fall to $700 million from last month's $940 million, a number which was also revised higher. The farm, fishing and intermediate food products category saw December trade reported at $2.339 billion, down 4.5% from November and down 5.6% from December 2012.
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Meanwhile, movement continues to disappoint in the grain sector. One good example comes from CN's website, which indicates 631 cars to be spotted this week for North American export (primarily U.S.), while there are 8,450 orders outstanding. An emergency debate on grain transportation took place in the House of Commons Wednesday evening, which lasted until midnight Eastern Time, hopefully the first of many.
Data for some of the smaller crops could be viewed as encouraging in Thursday's merchandise report, given the December data released. Lentil exports for the first five months of the crop year totaled 720,173 mt, 30% above year-ago levels and also well above the average of the past three years. Agriculture and Agri Food Canada (AAFC) has estimated this year's total exports at 1.650 mmt, with exports as of December ahead of the monthly pace needed to meet the annual target.
Exports of mustard are reported at 61,811 mt, well above last year's 48,284 mt moved in the first five months of the crop year. This is also well above the average of 46,614 mt over the past three years. AAFC's current export target for the crop year is 130,000 mt, with August through December movement ahead of the steady pace needed to meet this target.
Exports of canary seed in the August through December timeframe totaled 71,238 mt, 35% ahead of exports in the same window of 2012. Movement is also ahead of the three-year average. AAFC has pegged annual export sales at 125,000 mt, with current exports well ahead of the necessary pace to meet that target.
Exports of sunflower seed as of December total 18,961 mt, also ahead of last year and the average of the past three years. AAFC has pegged annual exports at 50,000 mt, with current exports as of December just slightly behind the pace to meet target.
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