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A container ship prepares to pass underneath the Lions Gate Bridge in this file photo. (Rafal Gerszak for The Globe and Mail)
A container ship prepares to pass underneath the Lions Gate Bridge in this file photo. (Rafal Gerszak for The Globe and Mail)

Rebound in Canadian trade still elusive Add to ...

A rebound in Canadian exports remained elusive in March as the country’s trade surplus narrowed to just $79-million.

Exports tumbled 1.4 per cent, Statistics Canada said Tuesday, while imports edged up.

At the same time, however, the federal agency also revised the country’s trade showing for February, reporting an $847-million surplus that was far heftier than the original reading.

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While the level of exports fell, volumes were actually up 0.7 per cent in March, while prices slipped 2 per cent, Statistics Canada said.

On the import side of the ledger, prices edged up 0.4 per cent, while volumes were flat.

Notably, exports to the United States, Canada’s biggest trading partner, tumbled 2.5 per cent. Imports from America gained 1 per cent.

Outside of the United States, exports to other countries climbed 2.5 per cent, with a sharp rise of 8.5 per cent to Europe. Imports from those countries inched down 0.7 per cent.

Over all, energy exports dropped 7.9 per cent after rising for three months in a row, as both prices and volumes declined.

Exports have now declined for two of the past three months, while imports are at their highest level on record, though March marked back-to-back surpluses.

The Bank of Canada and other observers hope for a boost to exports as the U.S. economy improves and the effects of a lower Canadian dollar filter through.

Just before the Statistics Canada report, the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development said in a new forecast that it in fact sees that playing out.

Economists, however, see that taking time.

“Despite the smaller-than-expected surplus in March, Canada managed to register its first quarterly goods trade surplus since 2011,” said senior economist Krishen Rangasamy of National Bank.

That, he added, was the result of a record, $22.4-billion surplus in energy trade that more than offset the $21.7-billion shortfall elsewhere.

“Both exports and imports contracted at an annualized pace of 6.5 per cent in Q1, suggesting limited contribution from trade to GDP in the quarter,” he added.

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