UPDATE 1-Autos drag down Canada wholesale trade in December


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OTTAWA, Feb 19 (Reuters) - Tumbling auto sales dragged down Canada's wholesale trade by 2.9 percent in December, more than expected and bringing the value of monthly sales to their lowest since November 2006, Statistics Canada said on Tuesday.

Analysts had expected a decline of just 0.6 percent, on average, in wholesale activity in December from November. Statscan revised the November increase to 0.2 percent from 0.3 percent.

Auto sector sales plunged 8.1 percent, more than double the gain registered in the previous month, likely because of weak demand from retail dealers and plant shutdowns for maintenance. "The automotive products sector accounted for around half of the overall decline," Statscan said in its monthly report.

Sales fell 3 percent in December in volume terms.

Inventories fell 0.3 percent, leading to a rise in the inventory-to-sales ratio to 1.30, its highest level in over four years.

Despite the downturn in December, wholesalers saw their sales rise by 4.7 percent annually in 2007 compared with the previous year.

*Statistics Canada report

http://www.statcan.ca/Daily/English/080219/td080219.htm (Reporting by Louise Egan; Editing by Renato Andrade)



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