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Most export sectors decline

Exports of industrial goods and materials fell 9.7% to $6.3 billion, the lowest level since March 2004, mainly the result of volume reductions. Lower exports of precious metals, notably gold, and fertilizers were the main contributors to the decline in this sector. Exports of steel and aluminum products also declined in April as a result of weak global demand for these products.

Exports of energy products contracted 8.7% to $6.1 billion as prices and volumes declined. Exports of natural gas decreased 14.9% due to lower industrial demand and high inventory levels in North America. Natural gas exports have been on a downward trend since July 2008. Crude petroleum exports declined 4.8% to $3.1 billion while petroleum and coal products decreased 12.0% to $1.0 billion.

Machinery and equipment exports were down 7.0% to $7.1 billion as volume reductions dominated the decrease in exports across most categories in this sector.

Exports of agricultural and fishing products rose 5.1%, moderating the overall decline in exports. Higher exports of canola and wheat largely accounted for the gains.

Industrial goods and materials drag imports down

Imports of industrial goods and materials declined 8.4% to $6.1 billion, the lowest level since April 2004. Metals and metal ores, which led the decline, registered the fourth consecutive decrease. The slowdown in the automotive industry and in drilling activities has reduced the demand for iron and steel products. Lower imports of chemicals and plastics also contributed to the decline. A combination of lower prices and volumes accounted for the decline in imports of industrial goods and materials.

Machinery and equipment imports decreased 3.3% to $9.3 billion due to widespread declines reflecting lower prices. This sector has been trending downward since November 2008 with the sharpest declines observed in December 2008 and January 2009.

Imports of energy products rose 11.9% partially offsetting the decline in overall imports as prices and volumes increased in April. Crude petroleum imports, which have been trending downwards since July 2008, increased 24.0% to $1.7 billion in April.