Building Materials Sector Leads Wholesale Sales Gains

Wholesale sales rose 0.3 per cent in March to $79.8 billion, with the largest increases coming in the building material and supplies sector, says Statistics Canada. This was the seventh increase in the past eight months. Sales rose in four of seven subsectors, representing 64 per cent of the total wholesale sector. Sales of building material and supplies rose 3.8 per cent in March to $14.1 billion, the fifth increase in the past six months. The gains in the subsector reflect ongoing strength in the housing industry in the U.S. Housing starts in the U.S. rose 0.3 per cent in March to their highest level in more than five years, providing a boost to Canadian exports of forestry products and building and packaging materials, which together rose 2.9 per cent in March. Six provinces reported higher wholesale sales in March, accounting for 64 per cent of national sales, led by Ontario where sales rose 1.5 per cent to $40.4 billion in March, with higher sales in five of the seven subsectors. With most provinces and territories having relatively tempered monthly movements, the next largest change was a downward movement in Saskatchewan. Following six consecutive months of growth, sales in the province decreased nine per cent to $3.3 billion. While five of seven subsectors had lower sales, over three-quarters of the decline was due to a 12.1 per cent fall in the miscellaneous subsector, which accounted for 58 per cent of the province's sales. Inventories rose 0.4 per cent to $108.7 billion in March, the second consecutive monthly increase. Four of seven subsectors reported increased inventories, representing 42.3 per cent of the total value.