The deficit was C$458 million ($373 million), Ottawa-based Statistics Canada said today, marking the first trade gap since March 1976. Economists surveyed by Bloomberg forecast a surplus of C$500 million, the median of 17 estimates.
Canada’s economy is struggling because of weak demand in the U.S., the country’s main market, and slumping prices for commodities such as oil, which generate about half of export revenue. The country is the No. 1 exporter of oil and natural gas to the U.S. and sits on the world’s biggest pool of oil reserves outside of the Middle East.
The agency revised its estimate for November’s surplus to C$1.16 billion from an initially reported C$1.28 billion.
Exports sank 9.7 percent to C$35.3 billion, the biggest drop since 1982, led by a 19 percent plunge in sales of energy products. Exports of crude fell 29 percent, mostly due to falling prices, Statistics Canada said.
Exports of fertilizer dropped 37 percent during the month while exports of aluminum decreased 27 percent, the agency said. Imports fell 5.7 percent to C$35.8 billion.
Canada’s trade surplus with the U.S. narrowed to C$3.77 billion, the lowest since 1998, from C$4.6 billion in November.