Retail Sales Decline, but Building Investment Posts Another Gain

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The Conference Board of Canada offers the following insights on today's release of data on retail trade and investment in building construction, prepared by economist Richard Forbes:

Today’s Statistics Canada release showed retail sales declined by a slight 0.1 per cent in September while there was a 1.0 per cent increase in building investment. For the retail sector, this marks the third contraction of the year. Although the economy is experiencing strong job and wage gains, household debt and higher savings are weighing on retail spending. In terms of building investment, the gains were largely from residential investment as strong employment gains and a rising population have boosted demand for housing.”

Insights

  • In September, retail sales fell by a slight 0.1 per cent after a 0.1 per cent gain in August.
  • In total, retail sales were up 1.0 per cent compared to September 2018.
  • After accounting for price changes, total sales volumes fell 0.1 per cent in September and are flat compared to September 2018.
  • Overall, retail trade is anticipated to expand at a modest pace this year. A decelerating Canadian economy and an increase in the household savings rate in the second quarter of 2019 are key factors weighing on our outlook.
  • In September, total investment in building construction increased 1.0 per cent after a 1.3 per cent gain in August.
  • Residential building investment rose 1.2 per cent, marking its third consecutive monthly increase.
  • In total, investment in building construction will post solid growth this year, thanks largely to improving housing markets.
  • With this morning’s releases, we now have third quarter data for retail and building investment. In both cases, spending was up compared to the second quarter, aligning with our latest forecast that shows continued modest growth in the Canadian economy.

Richard Forbes

Economist

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