Vehicle purchases helped drive Canadian retail sales in January to their the largest gain in nearly seven years, Statistics Canada said on Tuesday.
The 2.2 per cent increase in retail sales topped economists' expectations for a gain of 1.1 per cent, while volumes were also robust, up 1.3 per cent. January's increase was the largest since March 2010..
Sales were up in 10 out of 11 sectors, accounting for 98 per cent of retail trade. The motor vehicle and parts industry rose 3.8 per cent, making for the fourth gain in five months as sales rose at new- and used-car dealers.
Excluding autos, retail sales were up 1.7 per cent.
After unexpectedly strong wholesale trade and manufacturing figures for January, the retail sales report was likely to underscore expectations that the economy started 2017 on solid footing.
Four sectors recovered from weak December sales, including a six per cent jump at health stores and a 1.8 per cent increase at general merchandise stores.
Consumer spending was strong across the country, with retail sales up in every province.
Sales rose 2.4 per cent in Alberta, which has been hurt by the drop in oil prices. It was the fifth time in six months sales were up in the province, which has a large energy industry.