RTTNews - Canadian retail sales fell more than forecast in April after rising the previous three months, according to data released Friday by Statistics Canada.

The sobering retail sales report fueled speculation that the economic malaise gripping Canada may linger longer than originally feared, with consumers remaining too cautious unable to spend on big ticket items such as automobiles.

Retail sales in current dollars decreased by 0.8% in April to $33.5 billion. Economists expected retail sales to fall only 0.2%.

Sales declined in five of eight sectors, led by a 1.9% decrease in the automotive sector. Food and beverage stores followed with a 1.0% decline. These two sectors represent close to 60% of sales each month.

Retail sales in volume terms decreased 0.6%, offsetting the increase in March.

All three components of the automotive sector were down in April. The 1.8% decline in sales at new car dealers reflects lower values of new motor vehicles sold, as unit sales were essentially unchanged from March. Sales at used and recreational motor vehicle and parts dealers (-2.4%) declined for the sixth consecutive month. Gasoline stations registered a 1.9% decrease in sales.

After three months of increases, sales at food and beverage stores declined 1.0%. For the first time in over a year, the price of food purchased at stores edged down, according to the Consumer Price Index. Sales at supermarkets were down 0.7%, while beer, wine and liquor stores (-1.7%) registered their first monthly decline in 2009.

Furniture, home furnishings and electronics stores posted their ninth consecutive monthly decline in April with a 0.8% decrease in sales. Since July 2008, sales in this sector have fallen 11.4%. The continuing decline in the sector comes from lower sales volumes at furniture stores and home electronics and appliance stores.

For comments and feedback: contact editorial@rttnews.com