Canadian economy grew by 2.6% in fourth quarter

Biggest contribution came from increased household consumption

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OTTAWA — The Canadian economy outperformed expectations in the final three months of 2016 by growing at an annual rate of 2.6 per cent, Statistics Canada said Thursday.

The agency’s latest report on real gross domestic product said the biggest contribution to the fourth-quarter increase came from household consumption, which rose at an annual rate of 2.6 per cent.

Downward pressures on economic growth were led by an 8.2 per cent decline in business investment, which was the category’s ninth consecutive quarterly contraction.

A consensus of economists had predicted economic growth in the fourth quarter would expand by two per cent, according to Thomson Reuters.

Overall, the economy expanded by 1.4 per cent in 2016— compared to 0.9 per cent growth in 2015.

The real GDP figures were released as the Bank of Canada and the federal government try to gauge the direction of U.S. economic policy under President Donald Trump. Concern has spread through Corporate Canada and Ottawa over the impact of potential changes to taxation and trade policies by Trump’s administration.

The fourth-quarter real GDP result followed growth in the third quarter at a revised annual rate of 3.8 per cent. That third-quarter reading was driven by a strong rebound in energy exports after the devastating spring wildfires in the Alberta oil patch.

Over the final months of 2016, exports of goods and services increased at an annual rate of 1.3 per cent.

The overall GDP figure received a boost from a sharp quarterly drop in imports, which fell at an annual rate of 13.5 per cent. Statistics Canada said some of the decline was due to the one-time, third-quarter import of a large module for the Hebron offshore oil project.

The last time Statistics Canada saw such a significant drop was the first quarter of 2009, when the headline import figures dropped at an annual rate of 33.3 per cent.

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