Merchandise Trade Analysis – April 2016

Sales into the US drive exports higher in April 

After two months of steep declines, Canadian exporters stopped the bleeding in April, posting their first positive growth numbers since January. Exports rose by 1.5 per cent compared to March to reach an estimated $41.9 billion. Although a step in the right direction, exports remain well below January’s all-time monthly high of $46.1 billion. 

Canadian Trade Summary
  Feb-16 Mar-16 Apr-16
Value ($billions)
Exports 42.9 41.2 41.8
Imports 45.5 44.4 44.7
Trade Balance -2.5 -3.2 -2.9
Percentage change
Export prices -3.7 -1.3 0.0
Export volumes -3.0 -3.4 0.5
Import prices -2.4 -2.0 -0.2
Import volumes -1.2 -0.7 0.8


The numbers were better on the import side as well. Total imports were also up for the first time since January, rising by 0.9 per cent to reach $44.7 billion. As a result, Canada’s balance of trade improved slightly in April; the trade deficit shrank from a revised $3.2 billion in March to $2.9 billion in April. 

trade balance

Nevertheless, the declines in February and March have taken a toll on Canada’s year-to-date trade performance. Through the first four months of 2016, exports are just 0.3 per cent higher than they were over the same period last year. Imports, meanwhile, are up 0.4 per cent through four months.


On an industry-level basis, the positive export numbers in April were fuelled by a few specific factors. For one, energy exports jumped by 7.6 per cent over March, driven by rising crude oil prices (offsetting lower sales volumes) and a spike in the volume of natural gas headed into the United States. The energy sector accounted for over half of the $634-million increase in exports in April.

April also saw a surge in foreign sales of industrial machinery and equipment, as well as intermediate metal products. Exports of the former were up 10.4 per cent, while the latter were up 6.3 per cent compared to March. In both cases, however, the increase merely offset a similar-sized decline in the previous month.

growth by product

On the negative side, exports of aerospace vehicles and parts were sharply lower, falling by 10.0 per cent compared to March. However, this decrease is not out of the ordinary in a sector where deliveries can vary significantly from one month to the next. Even with the decrease in April, aerospace exports are still well above levels seen in January and February. 

The increase in overall exports was driven entirely by higher sales into the United States. US-bound exports were up by $693 million – an increase of 2.2 per cent over March. Even with that increase, however, year-over-year shipments to the US have been flat. From January through April, total exports to the US are just 0.4 per cent higher than they were over the same period in 2015.

top growing

Outside of the US, exports to Mexico, the Middle East, France and Japan were all higher. Those gains were offset, however, by lower sales into the UK and other EU countries, China and Brazil. 

top growing

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