Oil Information May Smudge Canada Trade Data

Canada’s trade reports suffer from a lack of timely oil industry figures, leading to multimillion dollar revisions on data that’s crucial to the Bank of Canada’s economic outlook.  Partial crude price and volume figures and changing industry practices make it impossible to get accurate energy-shipment data in time for the monthly reports. After revised numbers come in, deficits can shrink by hundreds of millions of dollars and surpluses have turned into shortfalls.

“They make me feel queasy sometimes,” Tony Peluso, a senior economist at Statistics Canada, said of the revisions. “It’s a matter of ongoing concern here at StatsCan, so we do take it very seriously.”  The data swings come at a crucial time for policy makers such as Bank of Canada Governor Stephen Poloz, who has said his outlook for the economy “hinges critically” on exports and business investment.

In Statistics Canada’s Jan. 7 report, for example, revised price information cut C$400 million ($369 million) from exports, helping turn October’s initially reported C$75 million surplus into a C$908 million shortfall. In March 2013, updated data on energy shipments led the agency to cut the December 2012 trade deficit to C$332 million from C$901 million.


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