Food, Machinery Sales Power Rise in Wholesale Trade

Canadian wholesale tills did slightly more business in January as higher sales in the food and machinery and equipment sectors offset declines in the building material and vehicle industries.

Information released Tuesday by Statistics Canada showed a 0.1% increase in the value of wholesale trade, topping economists' forecasts for no change. December was upwardly revised to show a decrease of 0.2%from the initially reported 0.5% decline.

Sales were up in four out of seven sectors in January, accounting for 66% of wholesale trade. Removing the effects of price changes, sales volumes were up 0.5%.

Still, the figures were likely to underscore expectations that economic growth was soft at the start of 2018 following disappointing January manufacturing sales data last week.

The agency also says the small increase in January wholesale trade was driven by a 3.1% jump in the food, beverage and tobacco sector. A 1.6% gain in machinery, equipment and supplies also supported overall sales.

But sales of building materials fell 4%, the first decline since August 2017. Sales of motor vehicles and parts fell for the second month in a row, down 1.6% while sales were off 0.5% from a year ago, making it the only major sector to decline on an annual basis.