Business

Trade deficit widens to $3.3B in May, 2nd highest ever

Canada's monthly trade deficit in May grew to $3.3 billion, the second-highest level ever. Analysts say that raises the odds that the Bank of Canada will cut its key interest rate next week.

Loonie tumbles below 79 cents US

Canada's monthly merchandise trade deficit grew to $3.3 billion in May, the second-highest level ever, Statistics Canada reported Tuesday. (Wave Point Consulting)

Canada's exports to the rest of the world fell in May while the country imported more than it did the month before. As a result, Canada's monthly merchandise trade deficit grew to $3.3 billion, the second-highest level ever, Statistics Canada reported Tuesday.

Economists had been expecting a deficit of about $2.5 billion.

The biggest monthly trade deficit came in March, when the country imported $3.6 billion more goods than it exported. 

Analysts said the larger-than-expected deficit figure boosts the odds of the Bank of Canada cutting its key interest rate next week by a quarter of a percentage point.

"The May trade data supports our view that the Canadian economy is struggling," said TD senior economist Randall Bartlett in a morning commentary. "Today's trade release works to reinforce our view that the lacklustre performance of the Canadian economy will provide the needed push to trigger a rate cut."

Loonie tumbles

A lower overnight lending rate would tend to lower the value of the Canadian dollar — something that would help manufacturers and other exporters.

The loonie was down more than a third of a cent at the close of trading, at 78.67 cents US. 

Statistics Canada said exports fell 0.6 per cent from April to $42 billion, while imports rose 0.2 per cent to $45.3 billion. 

Canada exported less to other countries, the federal agency said. The volume of exports dropped 2.5 per cent in May, following two straight monthly increases.

The country shipped far fewer mineral products and metal ores, with major declines recorded in exports of copper, potash, and other metal ores and concentrates.

On the plus side, exports of motor vehicles and parts rose, as did aircraft and other transportation equipment and parts.

Trade surplus with U.S. narrows

Imports rose in May because we brought in more consumer goods, precious metals, and basic and industrial chemical, plastic and rubber products. Imports of industrial machinery and parts fell. Altogether, imports in seven of 11 sectors increased.

Canada continues to have a trade surplus with the U.S., but the surplus narrowed slightly in May to $2.1 billion from $2.3 billion in April.

But Canada's trade deficit with countries other than the United States widened from $5.3 billion in April to $5.5 billion in May. Exports to China and the United Kingdom each fell by more than $300 million. 

As for the U.S., the Commerce Department reported that the U.S. trade deficit grew slightly in May, reflecting declines in sales of American-made aircraft and machinery. Exports continued to suffer from the rising value of the U.S. dollar.

The U.S. trade deficit widened 2.9 per cent in May to $41.9 billion US, up from an April imbalance of $40.7 billion.

With files from The Canadian Press and The Associated Press

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