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Workers lay cables and wiring in a Global Express jet being manufactured at Bombardier Inc.'s Downsview assembly plant in this file photo.Fred Lum/The Globe and Mail

Canadian factory sales dipped in value in April, pulled lower by aerospace and oil and coal, and marking the first drop in four months.

The loss of 0.1 per cent reported by Statistics Canada Friday went counter to the expectations of economists, who had been forecasting an increase of 0.5 per cent or better.

But sales were also pulled down by lower prices, the agency said, while volumes rose 0.4 per cent.

"The increase in the volume figures should offset some of the disappointment from the headline miss," said economist Nick Exarhos of CIBC World Markets.

The big hit came in the oil and coal industries, which lost 5 per cent, with sales at $6.9-billion.

"The decline was caused by partial shutdowns at several refineries for maintenance and retooling work," Statistics Canada said.

"Although such work is common during the spring months, the partial shutdowns were more extensive than usual in April."

Aerospace and related parts industry production declined by 6.2 per cent, having been up for the previous three months. Still, the agency said, production so far this year is up 15.5 per cent from the same period last year.

Across the country, inventories climbed by 1.1 per cent, the fourth such consecutive rise.

Unfilled orders also rose, by 0.5 per cent, while new orders jumped 2.5 per cent.

The inventory-to-sales ratio, or the amount of time in months it would take to work down inventories if sales held steady, inched up to 1.42 in April from 1.41 a month before.