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Statistics Canada reports February retail sales down 0.1% to $66.7 billion

Sales at food at beverage retailers increased by 1.4%
Core retail sales were unchanged in February.

Canadian retail sales edged lower in February, weighed down by lower sales at gasoline stations and fuel vendors.

Statistics Canada said Wednesday retail sales fell 0.1% to $66.7 billion for the month as sales at gasoline stations and fuel vendors fell 2.2%.

The move came as sales at motor vehicle and parts dealers gained 0.5%

Core retail sales which exclude gasoline stations and fuel vendors and motor vehicle and parts dealers were unchanged in February.

Sales at food at beverage retailers increased by 1.4%. Supermarkets and other grocery retailers (except convenience) saw a 2.2% increase. 

TD Bank economist Maria Solovieva said the reading for overall sales in February was weaker than Statistics Canada's advance estimate for a 0.1% gain. 

"Today's decline in retail sales for February was more widespread than what we saw in January, reflecting weaker-than-expected performance in core measures and underscoring the challenges facing consumers amid rising costs of living and financing," she wrote in a report. 

In volume terms, Statistics Canada said overall retail sales fell 0.3% in February. 

The agency also said its advance estimate suggests retail sales were unchanged in March, though it cautioned the figure would be revised.

Olivia Cross, North America economist at Capital Economics, said the surprise fall in retail sales in February and the apparent stagnation in March makes for a disappointing first quarter.

"That reinforces our view that the Bank of Canada is likely to cut interest rates at the next meeting in June," Cross wrote in a note.

The Bank of Canada kept its key interest rate target on hold at 5% earlier this month, but governor Tiff Macklem said it was "within the realm of possibilities" that the central bank could cut rates at its next announcement in June. 

Statistics Canada said sales at general merchandise retailers rose 1.1% in
February, while health and personal care retailers gained 0.4%.

Meanwhile, sales at furniture, home furnishings, electronics and appliances retailers fell 1.5%.

Clothing, clothing accessories, shoes, jewelry, luggage and leather goods retailers also dropped 1%, while building material and garden equipment and supplies dealers fell 0.4%.

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