Analysis — February 2014

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Wholesale sales rose for a second consecutive month in February, up 1.1% to $50.7 billion. Sales in all subsectors increased, led by motor vehicle and parts. Excluding this subsector, wholesale sales rose 0.8%.

In volume terms, wholesale sales were up 0.8%.

Chart 1

Higher sales in all subsectors

The motor vehicle and parts subsector led the growth in wholesale sales in February, rising 3.0% to $8.4 billion following two consecutive monthly declines. The motor vehicle industry (+4.7%) accounted for most of the increase. Stronger exports, imports and manufacturing sales were also recorded for motor vehicles and parts in February.

The machinery, equipment and supplies subsector recorded the second largest increase in dollar terms in February, as sales rose 0.8% to $10.7 billion. The computer and communications equipment and supplies industry (+2.3%) led the increase, posting a second consecutive monthly gain.

Sales rose 0.7% to $10.0 billion in the food, beverage and tobacco subsector, the fourth increase in five months. The food industry (+0.4%) accounted for much of the increase. The cigarette and tobacco product industry (+5.9%) also recorded higher sales in February.

The building material and supplies subsector (+0.9%) recorded a second consecutive monthly increase, as sales surpassed $7.0 billion. These gains did not offset the declines recorded in November and December 2013, as sales in the subsector were still below the historical peak reached in October 2013.

Sales rose 0.8% to $6.5 billion in the miscellaneous subsector on the strength of gains in four of its five industries. This was the subsector's fifth increase in six months.

Sales up in eight provinces

In February, sales increased in eight provinces, which together represented 94% of wholesale sales in Canada. Ontario accounted for much of the gain with 48% of sales in February.

Following two monthly declines, sales rose 1.5% to $24.4 billion in Ontario. Higher sales in the motor vehicle and parts subsector accounted for most of the increase.

Sales in Quebec (+0.9%) rose for a second consecutive month, reaching $9.4 billion in February. Gains were recorded in several subsectors, with the largest contribution coming from the food, beverage and tobacco subsector.

In Alberta, widespread gains across subsectors led to a 1.1% rise in sales, which reached $6.8 billion. This was the second consecutive increase for the province.

Manitoba recorded a third increase in four months, as sales rose 2.7% to $1.4 billion. February's increase more than offset January's decline in this province.

Following a strong gain in January, sales declined 0.6% in Saskatchewan to $2.0 billion. The miscellaneous subsector and the farm product subsector were the main contributors to the decrease.

Sales decreased 0.5% to $0.7 billion in Nova Scotia, the third decline in four months.

Inventories rise in February

Inventories rose 0.4% to $62.4 billion in February. Gains were recorded in four of seven subsectors, representing 55% of wholesale inventories.

The largest gains in dollar terms were in the machinery, equipment and supplies subsector (+1.7%) and the motor vehicle and parts subsector (+2.7%). This was the second consecutive monthly increase for both subsectors.

Inventories fell 1.4% in the personal and household goods subsector and 0.7% in the building materials and supplies subsector. In both subsectors, the decline in February followed two consecutive monthly gains.

The inventory-to-sales ratio fell from 1.24 in January to 1.23 in February.

The inventory-to-sales ratio is a measure of the time in months required to exhaust inventories if sales were to remain at their current level.

Note to readers

All data in this release are seasonally adjusted and in current dollars, unless otherwise noted. For more information on seasonal adjustment, see Seasonal adjustment and identifying economic trends.

Total wholesale sales expressed in volume are calculated by deflating current dollar values using relevant price indexes. The wholesale sales series in chained (2007) dollars is a chained Fisher volume index with 2007 as the reference year. For more information, see Sales in volume for Wholesale Trade.

With this release, unadjusted monthly data were revised back to January 2013, while seasonally adjusted data were revised back to January 2010. Factors influencing revisions include late receipt of respondent information, correction of information in the data provided, the replacement of estimated figures with actual values (once available), the re-classification of companies within, into and out of the wholesale trade industry and updates to seasonal factors, including trading day weights.

Data in volume terms were also revised back to January 2010.

Chart 4
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