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Severe Weather Sends Canadian Retail Sales Plummeting in December

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Severe Weather Sends Canadian Retail Sales Plummeting in December

Canadian retail sales declined sharply in December, as severe weather weakened holiday spending across the country.

December retail sales declined 1.8 percent to $40.2 billion, Statistics Canada reported today from Ottawa. The decline, which was the steepest in 12 months, followed a gain of 0.5 percent in November. Economists in a Reuters survey forecast a decline of 0.4 percent. Retail sales excluding automobiles were down 1.4 percent, after rising 0.3 percent in November.

Declines were broad-based, hitting nine of the 11 major retail sub-sectors. In volume terms, sales were down 2.2 percent, as severe weather kept holiday shopping thin. In dollar terms, motor vehicle and parts dealers reported the sharpest decline at 3.2 percent. Sales at building material and garden equipment outlets declined 8.2 percent. Sales at electronic stores declined 13.1 percent in December, after rising 6.8 percent in November. Receipts at furniture and home furnishings stores declined 7.8 percent, official data showed.

Retail revenues declined in all provinces, as frigid temperatures and volatile weather gripped the Canadian economy from coast-to-coast. Retail sales declined 2.2 percent in Ontario, the nation’s economic powerhouse. After rising 1.8 percent in November, receipts fell 2.1 percent in British Columbia. Meanwhile, Quebec saw its retail receipts decline 1.2 percent in December.

The Canadian economy, struggling to emerge from an almost two-year slowdown, was hit by several anomalies in December, including power outages, record snowfalls and consecutive days of minus 30 degree Celsius temperatures. The weather-induced slowdown suggests Canada could be hard pressed to register positive GDP growth in December after five consecutive months of expansion.

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