Canada posts unexpected March trade surplus

Canada's trade balance turned surprisingly positive in March as a prolonged rise in exports outpaced a spike in imports, a government agency said Thursday.

The country's trade balance went from a revised deficit of Can$1.2 billion (US$1.2 billion) in February to a surplus of Can$24 million in March, Statistics Canada said. Analysts had predicted a Can$700 million deficit.

Exports, which have been on an upward trend since July 2012, grew to Can$40.5 billion in March.

Imports, meanwhile, rose for a third consecutive month to Can$40.4 billion -- their second highest value on record.

Canada shipped abroad more natural gas, motor vehicles and parts, copper ores and concentrates, aircraft, aircraft engines and aircraft parts. Exports of food, beverage and tobacco products hit a record high of Can$2.0 billion.

Also up were imports of crude oil and crude bitumen, unwrought precious metal and precious metal alloys, aircraft and other transportation equipment and parts, as well as motor vehicle engines and parts.

However, imports of lubricants and other petroleum refinery products, as well as basic chemicals, fell in the month.

Exports to the United States rose on higher motor vehicles and parts and energy shipments, while imports were up for a third consecutive month, pushing Canada's trade surplus with its largest trading partner higher from Can$3.2 billion in February to Can$3.8 billion in March.