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Canadian wholesale sales unexpectedly declined in February, the first drop in four months, led by automobiles and machinery.

Bloomberg reported on Wednesday that sales declined 1.2 per cent to $43.7bn, Statistics Canada said today in Ottawa. Economists expected a one per cent increase, based on the median of 14 responses in a Bloomberg survey.

Four of the seven wholesale categories tracked by Statistics Canada recorded decreases in February. Motor vehicle sales fell 5.3 per cent to C$5.88bn, the first decline since August. Machinery, equipment and supplies sales fell 2.8 per cent while personal and household goods sales fell 1.5 per cent.

Wholesale sales have gained 8.5 per cent over the last year as companies sold goods out of their inventories to meet rising demand. The Bank of Canada said on Wednesday that it will begin raising interest rates to keep inflation in check, as the economic rebound has been faster than expected.

Wholesale inventories rose 0.1 per cent to $51.1bn in February, the first increase since November 2008. The ratio of wholesale inventories-to-sales rose to 1.17 from 1.15, the first increase since August.

The agency began using a new sample of wholesalers in today's report and made other historical revisions to its data. Using that new system, the agency said January wholesale sales rose 2.4 percent. Last month, under the old series, it had said wholesale sales rose three per cent, the fastest in three years.