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Wholesale sales up, offering sliver of economic optimism

Autos led the advance in June.

DARRYL DYCK/The Globe and Mail

Canadian wholesale sales were better than expected in June, offering the latest sliver of economic optimism in what's expected to be a rough quarter.

Statistics Canada said wholesale sales grew by 0.7 per cent to $56.4-billion, the third consecutive month of gains. The figure topped the 0.1-per-cent increase that had been expected by economists, according to Thomson Reuters.

"June's GDP print should be a decent one, and it will find support in another healthy reading from wholesale trade," CIBC economist Nick Exarhos said in a note to clients.

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"Autos, personal goods and building materials led the advance, and the 0.6-per-cent volume gain is a positive insofar as it adds to the healthy manufacturing report released last week."

Last week, Statistics Canada reported manufacturing sales totalled $50.2-billion in June, a rise of 0.8 per cent, after a drop of 1 per cent in the prior month.

The overall reading for the economy in the second quarter is expected to show a contraction due in large part to the wildfires that devastated Fort McMurray, Alta., which forced several oilsands operations to temporarily shut down, and weak trade figures for the three-month period.

Real gross domestic product fell by 0.6 per cent in May, the largest monthly decline since March 2009.

Statistics Canada said as part of its monthly wholesale trade survey it asked three supplementary questions to assess the impact of the Fort McMurray wildfires. About 1,250 companies responded to the supplementary questions with 147 wholesalers saying that they were affected by the wildfires, down from 212 in May.

The agency said while the effects of the disaster were widespread across most wholesale subsectors, the machinery, equipment and supplies subsector bore the brunt of it.

Wholesale sales were up in four provinces in June, with gains in Ontario being the biggest in dollar terms as it grew to $28.9-billion, up by 0.8 per cent.

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Other provinces making gains were Alberta, up 3.0 per cent to $6.2-billion; British Columbia, up 2.0 per cent to $5.7-billion; and Quebec, up 0.2 per cent to $10.4-billion.

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