OTTAWA — The automotive sector helped Canadian wholesale sales beat expectations and hit a record in January, in another sign of gathering strength in the economy.
Statistics Canada said on Monday that wholesale sales climbed 3.3 per cent to $59.1 billion in January, the largest monthly percentage gain since November 2009.
Economists had expected a gain of 0.5 per cent, according to Thomson Reuters.
"The auto sector drove wholesaling crazy in January, enough for at least some eyebrows to be raised at what is typically seen as a second-tier Canadian economic indicator," CIBC chief economist Avery Shenfeld wrote in a brief report.
In volume terms, wholesale sales increased 3.4 per cent.
The data follows recent stronger-than-expected results for manufacturing sales, trade and job creation in Canada.
Retail trade figures for January are expected Tuesday and inflation figures for February are set to be released Friday.
Wholesale sales were up in four of seven subsectors, led by the motor vehicle and parts group. It grew by 17.1 per cent to $11.9 billion, the largest gain in dollar terms and its first increase in three months.
Excluding the subsector, overall wholesale sales increased 0.3 per cent in January.
The personal and household goods subsector climbed 3.0 per cent to $8.5 billion, while sales in the food, beverage and tobacco subsector gained 0.2 per cent to $11.2 billion.
The miscellaneous subsector fell 1.0 per cent to $7.4 billion.
Wholesale sales made gains in six provinces in January, led in dollar terms by Ontario, which gained 6.0 per cent to a record $30.5 billion.
The Canadian Press