By Paul Vieira
OTTAWA--Canada's economy expanded in the third quarter on the strength of exports and consumer spending, shaking off some of the negative effects of a commodity-price slump that caused it to contract in the first half of 2015.
Gross domestic product--the broadest indicator of goods and services produced by an economy--rose 2.3% on an annualized basis in the quarter, to 1.77 trillion Canadian dollars ($1.33 trillion), Statistics Canada said Tuesday. The results matched market expectations but fell short of the Canadian central bank's forecast for a 2.5% gain.
The results painted a mixed picture of the health of the country's economy, which has been hard hit by the drop in prices for oil and other commodities it exports. Results for the first and second quarters of the year were revised upwards, suggesting the economy didn't shrink as much as first reported. However, the third quarter ended with a thud, as gross domestic product fell 0.5% in September, marking the biggest monthly decline since March 2009.
"This report is soft in the details," said Mark Chandler, head of Canada currency and fixed-income research at RBC Capital Markets. "If you look at the composition there is some disappointment."
The Bank of Canada's anticipated shift in the country's growth profile, with a greater emphasis on business investment and less so on real estate, has yet to materialize, Mr. Chandler said. He also said September's weakness means growth in the fourth quarter "will remain a challenge." The Bank of Canada has forecast 1.5% annualized expansion in the final three months of the year.
Exports drove third-quarter growth in Canada, advancing 2.3% in the quarter on sales of motor vehicles, consumer goods and crude oil. Imports, meanwhile, fell 0.7%, with the purchase of services from abroad down 1%, for the biggest drop in over two years.
Household spending rose 0.4% in the quarter, although that represented a slowdown after a 0.6% gain in the previous three-month period. Purchases of durable goods such as appliances rose 2.3%.
Business investment declined for a third straight quarter. Firms' spending on nonresidential structures fell 1.7% and outlays for machinery and equipment dropped 1.1%.
Statistics Canada said second-quarter gross domestic product declined 0.3% on an annualized basis versus the earlier estimate of a 0.5% drop, while the first-quarter contraction was 0.7% versus its original 0.8% estimate.
The September contraction could add to mounting worries that the budding recovery has lost steam, and prompt the Bank of Canada to keep interest rates low for the foreseeable future.
"The economic impact of lower oil prices is likely to prove longer lasting and further reaching than was originally expected," said Diana Petramala, economist at Toronto-Dominion Bank, adding the firm expects the country's central bank to keep its benchmark rate unchanged, at 0.5%, until mid-2017. The Bank of Canada cut its policy rate twice this year to offset the negative fallout from the commodity-price rout. Its next rate decision comes Wednesday.
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