Quick take

Trade Data Disappoint

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  • Canada’s total exports rose 0.6 per cent (month-on-month) in April while imports grew by 1.9 per cent. As a result, Canada’s merchandise trade surplus with the world narrowed from $2.3 billion in March to $1.5 billion in April.
  • Exports climbed to $64.3 billion in April a fourth consecutive monthly gain. After reaching unprecedented highs in the previous three months, exports of energy products were down 0.9 per cent in April. Exports of crude oil fell 14.3 per cent, mainly due to lower volumes. Conversely, exports of motor vehicles and parts rose 3.9 per cent to $7.1 billion, the highest level since October 2020.
  • Total imports posted a modest increase totaling $62.8 billion. Imports of energy products (+5.0 per cent) increased on higher prices. The increase in imports of refined petroleum products (+52.6 per cent) and natural gas (+57.0 per cent) was partly offset by lower imports of crude oil (–20.9 per cent).
  • Exports to the United States continued to rise, increasing 2.1 per cent in April, a fourth consecutive monthly increase. In contrast, imports edged up 4.4 per cent, primarily because of higher imports of refined petroleum products. As a result, Canada’s trade surplus with the United States narrowed from a record high of $12.2 billion in March to $11.6 billion in April.

Key Insights

  • Trade figures disappointed in April. Digging deeper into the data revealed a decrease in exports of energy products. This was the result of planned maintenance shutdowns in April in the Alberta oil sands, particularly for upgraded facilities that produce synthetic crude oil. However, the combined increases in exports of natural gas (+48.4 per cent) and coal (+62.8 per cent) almost entirely offset the decline in crude oil exports in April. Still, we predict that this will rebound in the coming months, especially with the increased demand for energy products in the summer.
  • Soaring energy and commodity prices have seen Canada’s terms of trade (the ratio of the price of exports to the price of imports) improve in recent months. The substantial increase in exports of lumber, electricity, and refined petroleum products reflects continued price pressures due to supply constraints. Still, export volumes declined by 2.4 per cent—primarily due to a drop in energy products—in the first quarter of this year. The drop in export volume could partly be attributed to the weaker demand for Canadian energy exports caused by higher prices.
  • With Russia’s ongoing invasion of Ukraine, there are some buffers to consider. The effect on Canada’s trade balance has been reflected in increased demand for exports. This will have a positive revenue impact on several Canadian energy companies. Likewise, government revenues in Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Newfoundland & Labrador will also bear the markings of higher inflows. With the increased revenue, provincial governments now have the opportunity to offer temporary relief to consumers who are facing higher prices, particularly those at the lower end of the income spectrum.

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Momanyi Mokaya

Momanyi Mokaya

Research Associate

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