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Canadian Retailers Start 2019 With Unexpected Drop in Sales

Canadian retailers are off to a disappointing start this year, with an unexpected drop in sales reinforcing worries about consumer weakness.

Retailers posted a 0.3 percent drop in January, Statistics Canada said Friday from Ottawa, versus economist expectations for a 0.4 percent gain. The drop in December was also revised lower to 0.3 percent. In volume terms, retail sales were unchanged.

Receipts have fallen for three straight months, and for five of the past six, underscoring a broader trend of slowing consumption by households as they face rising borrowing costs, weakening housing markets and volatility in financial markets. It also highlights how the nation’s economy may not be able to rely as much on consumers to fuel new growth.

The drop in January sales was driven by a 1.5 percent decline in receipts at motor vehicle and parts dealers. Excluding that sector, sales were up 0.1 percent.

There was some good news in the numbers. Six of 11 sectors tracked by Statistics Canada reported gains in January.

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