CN strike linked to plunge in Canada’s trade volumes

The strike by Canadian National (NYSE: CNI) rail workers helped bring down Canada’s trade volumes during November, Statistics Canada reported.

The eight-day disruption across Canada’s largest rail network coincided with 1.4% decline in exports to C$48.7 billion and 2.4% drop in imports to C$49.8 billion, Statistics Canada said in its monthly international merchandise trade report Jan. 7.

November’s international trade data actually showed Canada’s trade deficit narrowed during the month, but it was largely a product of the disproportionate decline in imports.

The strike “appeared to have played a significant role in the result,” Toronto-Dominion Bank economist Rishi Sondhi wrote on Jan. 7.

The largest drops in exports came from metal ores and minerals (18.3%), forestry products (10.1%) and energy products (7.7%).

FreightWaves’ SONAR platform shows a 21% drop in petroleum carloads in Canada during the CN Strike.

The impact appears in FreightWaves SONAR platform’s Canadian rail data, with a particularly dramatic 21% plunge in the volume of petroleum product carloads shipped by rail during the strike.

Statistics Canada noted that trade by rail reached its lowest value “in recent years,” with exports by rail hitting their lowest level for November since 2013. The federal agency did not release specific figures linked to trade by rail.

CN ran at 10% capacity during the strike, which ran Nov. 18-26. While trucks helped offset some of the impact, the movement of many commodities came to a virtual standstill.

Despite the CN disruption, “some solace can be taken in the fact that the strike ended in late November. This could make the December data look better,” Sondhi wrote.