OTTAWA - Canada's trade deficit narrowed sharply in September from a record large gap in August thanks in part to a comeback in auto exports and growing sales to non-U.S. markets, Statistics Canada said on Friday.

The trade shortfall shrank to C$927 million ($883 million) in September from C$1.99 billion in August, better than the consensus forecast of a C$1.75 billion deficit.

Exports jumped 3.5 percent in the month, the third increase in four months as the country pulls out of a recession. A 15.8 percent leap in exports of automotive products led the gain thanks to new models of passenger cars and factories resuming production after summer shutdowns. Exports also grew for industrial goods and materials, and machinery and equipment while energy exports fell.

Imports fell 0.1 percent in September from August.

Canada ships about three-quarters of its exports to the United States, but in September there were signs businesses were reaching out to new markets in response to anemic U.S. demand. Exports to the U.S. market inched up by only 0.5 percent as auto sales were offset by weak energy prices.

Exports to non-U.S. countries, particularly the European Union, soared 12.4 percent. As a result, Canada's trade surplus with its neighbor shrank to C$2.1 billion from C$2.3 billion in August and its deficit with the rest of the world narrowed to C$3 billion from C$4.3 billion. ($1 = $1.05 Canadian) (Reporting by Louise Egan; Editing by James Dalgleish)