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Canadian economy up a measly 0.4% in Q1, but March data show promise

The Canadian economy posted grow of just 0.4 per cent annualized in the first three months of the year, marking the country's weakest back-to-back quarters of growth since 2015.
The Canadian economy posted grow of just 0.4 per cent annualized in the first three months of the year, marking the country's weakest back-to-back quarters of growth since 2015. Jeff McIntosh/The Canadian Press

Canada’s economy expanded at an annualized pace of just 0.4 per cent in the first three months of the year, giving the country its weakest back-to-back quarters of growth since 2015.

Statistics Canada says the real gross domestic product reading for the first quarter follows a revised reading of just 0.3 per cent in the previous quarter. The first-quarter reading was slightly higher than the prediction of the Bank of Canada, which has stressed the slowdown was temporary and that growth has been accelerating in the second quarter.

READ MORE: Bank of Canada holds key interest rate at 1.75%

The report says downward pressure on growth was driven by weakness in net trade as imports rose and export volumes saw their first quarterly decrease since 2017. Canada saw substantial declines in its exports of farm and fishing products as well as a drop in crude-oil shipments.

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On the positive side, the agency says overall economic growth was boosted by the highest quarterly level of household spending in two years and the biggest jolt of business investment in equipment and machinery in 23 years.

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The release also showed growth of 0.5 per cent in March, which suggests “much better momentum” heading into the second quarter of the year, according to CIBC chief economist  Avery Shenfeld.

“Overall, the economy has slid past a near stall in the past two quarters, but the details and progress in March suggest that we’re going to make up for some of that,” he wrote.

— With files from Global News reporter Erica Alini

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