Canada has posted its first monthly trade surplus since Sept. 2014, moving from a $1.0 billion deficit in October to an unexpected $526 million surplus in November, Statistics Canada said Friday.

According to a Reuters survey, analysts had been expecting a November trade deficit of $1.6 billion.

Exports were up 4.3 per cent, on the strength of increased shipments of metal and non-metallic mineral products, as well as record exports to countries other than the United States.  

Within the metal and non-metallic minerals sector, exports of unwrought precious metals and precious metal alloys led the gain, up 24.3 per cent to $1.9 billion on larger shipments to Hong Kong and Switzerland. 

Statistics Canada said exports volumes rose 3.5 per cent and prices were up 0.8 per cent.

Meanwhile, imports were up 0.7 per cent, mainly on higher imports of energy products.

Surplus with U.S. widens

Exports to the United States, Canada's top trading partner, also rose in November, climbing 2.5 per cent to $33.7 billion, while imports from the United States were down 0.7 per cent to $29.5 billion. That meant Canada's trade surplus with the United States widened from $3.2 billion in October to $4.2 billion in November, the largest surplus since June 2015.

TD Bank economist Dina Ignjatovic said in a commentary that the growth in export volumes in November was a welcome development for the Canadian economy after two months of softness.

"Volumes are now sitting at the highest level seen since February, and could provide some support to economic growth in the fourth quarter which is now tracking near two per cent," Ignjatovic said.

"Looking to 2017, conditions remain supportive for exports to take the growth baton, as the Canadian dollar will continue to hover in the mid-70 US cent range and growth in the U.S. is set to accelerate," she said, but added that protectionist measures that could arise under incoming U.S. president Donald Trump may limit any growth in the sector.