Canadian wholesale sales rose 0.8 percent to $53.9 billion in March after two consecutive monthly declines, according to Statistics Canada. Higher sales were recorded in five of seven subsectors, accounting for 66 percent of total wholesale sales. In volume terms, wholesale sales increased 1 percent.
The building material and supplies subsector recorded the largest gain in dollar terms in March, rising 2.8 percent to $7.6 billion, following two consecutive monthly declines. The increase was due to gains in the electrical, plumbing, heating and air-conditioning equipment and supplies industry (+4.7 percent) and the lumber, millwork, hardware and other building supplies industry (+3 percent).
The food, beverage and tobacco subsector recorded a fifth consecutive monthly gain in March, increasing 1.2 percent to $10.7 billion. All industries in this subsector contributed to the increase.
The personal and household goods subsector also rose for a fifth consecutive month, up 1.5 percent to $7.7 billion. Every industry within the subsector recorded higher sales, led by the pharmaceuticals and pharmacy supplies industry (+1.2 percent).
Following two consecutive monthly declines, the motor vehicle and parts subsector increased 0.7 percent to $8.9 billion, led by higher sales in the motor vehicle industry (+1.2 percent).
Sales in the miscellaneous subsector declined 1.5 percent to $7.2 billion. Four of five industries in the subsector recorded lower sales, led by the other miscellaneous industry (-4.4 percent), which includes wholesalers of goods such as logs, wood chips, minerals, ores and precious metals.
Wholesale sales increased in three provinces in March, with Ontario accounting for most of the gain. In Ontario, sales rose 1.9 percent to $26.3 billionon the strength of gains in the building material and supplies subsector and the motor vehicle and parts subsector.
In British Columbia, sales rose 0.8 percent to $5.3 billion, the highest value on record. The building material and supplies subsector contributed the most to the gain.
Sales declined 2.2 percent to $2.4 billion in Saskatchewan on weaker sales in the miscellaneous subsector. This was the second decline in three months. The gain in February in this province was revised down to 0.3 percent to reflect updated information provided by respondents.
The miscellaneous subsector was also the largest contributor to the decline in Manitoba, where sales fell 1.2 percent to $1.5 billion in March.
In Nova Scotia, sales decreased 5.8 percent to $695 million, their lowest level since March 2014.
Inventories rose 1 percent to $71.4 billion in March. Gains were recorded in four of seven subsectors, which together represented 62 percent of wholesale inventories.
The largest gain in dollar terms occurred in the machinery, equipment and supplies subsector (+2.4 percent), its fourth consecutive monthly increase.
Inventories in the motor vehicle and parts subsector (+4.5 percent) rose for the second time in three months.
The food, beverage and tobacco subsector (-2.2 percent) recorded a third consecutive monthly decline, while the miscellaneous subsector (-1.3 percent) decreased for the first time in five months.
The inventory-to-sales ratio remained at 1.32 in March. The inventory-to-sales ratio is a measure of the time in months required to exhaust inventories if sales were to remain at their current level.