Canada: Fourth quarter GDP flat, growth 1.8% for 2012

Canada's economy grew 1.8 percent last year, a bit less than the central bank's forecast and down from 2.6 percent in 2011, the government statistics agency said Friday.

Gross domestic product in the fourth quarter was up 0.2 percent, similar to the previous quarter's gains, as mining and oil and gas extraction were up and manufacturing recorded a significant decrease.

The arts and entertainment sector, transportation and warehousing as well as wholesale trade also declined, while construction, the public sector, utilities and the finance and insurance sector increased in the last three months of 2012.

Household spending was up.

Business investment on machinery and equipment continued to be weak, with fewer purchases of heavy trucks and buses, and more aircraft and computer outlays. Following 12 months of anemic government spending, it ticked up slightly in the fourth quarter of 2012.

Business inventories were sharply lower in the fourth quarter, said Statistics Canada. Manufacturers' and wholesalers' inventories were down while retailers' inventories rose.

Imports were down, and exports edged up. Disposable income inched up, but Canadians saved less.

For the year 2012, all major industrial sectors made gains, except public administration and the arts and entertainment sector which was affected by a months-long National Hockey League player lockout.

Government spending was up slightly, but the pace of growth in government spending has slowed every year since 2008.

New home construction was up 12.8 percent in 2012.

Trade volumes slowed considerably with exports rising at one-third their pace in 2011 and imports growing at half their pace.

This year the economy is expected to pick up, with the Bank of Canada forecasting growth of 2.0 percent while the International Monetary Fund has predicted 1.8 percent growth.