Canada's economy expanded at an annualized rate of 0.8 per cent in the last three months of 2015, a slowdown from 2.4 per cent in the previous period but still much better than what economists had been expecting.
Statistics Canada reported Tuesday that exports declined by 0.6 per cent between October and December, but imports were down by almost four times that much. The loonie was a factor in that, as Canadians became acutely aware of the Canadian dollar's diminished buying power during the period in question.
The loonie actually rallied on the surprise GDP beat, gaining a quarter of a penny to trade above the 74 cents US level. Earlier it had risen even further to its highest point in three months.
The weak showing for December means that for 2015 as a whole, Canada's economy expanded by 1.2 per cent. That's less than half as much as it grew by the year before. It's also exactly half as much as the U.S. economy grew by last year.
All of the growth came in the second half of the year, as Canada's economy contracted slightly in the first two quarters ended in June 2015.
"We look for no improvement this year, although the better tone to end last year has prompted a mild upgrade for our 2016 call to 1.2 per cent (from 1.0 per cent)," BMO economist Doug Porter said in a note to clients.
David Madani of Capital Economics had an even gloomier take, telling clients in a note that "it underlines how bad things have become in Canada that the 0.8 per cent annualised increase in fourth-quarter GDP, above the consensus forecast for no change, will be celebrated as some sort of economic renaissance."