New York’s art scene is suddenly skewing Canada’s trade balance with the U.S.
A shipment of paintings and sculptures potentially worth hundreds of millions of dollars helped drive an increase in exports in October, Statistics Canada said Thursday. That resulted in the northern nation’s widest surplus with its biggest trading partner since the 2008 financial crisis.
The valuable freight was captured in the data by a $532 million increase in an obscure subsection of the consumer goods category. The 116 per cent jump from the previous month is the largest in records dating back to 1988.
“The fine art pieces were destined to an art fair in New York that began at the end of October,” the agency said, without specifying which exhibition.
According to a person familiar with the shipment, it was bound for the European Fine Art Fair, or TEFAF. The festival -- which has two annual fairs in New York, as well as one in the Dutch city of Maastricht -- bills itself as a “transatlantic meeting ground for a global community of dealers, collectors, curators, interior designers and art-and-antiques enthusiasts.”
It’s unclear who shipped the artwork. Montreal gallery Landau Fine Art is listed as an exhibitor at the fall New York event, but representatives didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.
While the value of Canadian shipments abroad rose 0.8 per cent on the month, the nation’s trade outlook has become increasingly uncertain as global tensions mount and non-energy exports fail to make significant gains.
The brightened picture in October could end up in a darker shade if the exported works didn’t find a home at the festival. “Items that do not sell could be brought back and subsequently included in Canada’s import statistics,” the statistics agency said.
Canadian trade data is often skewed by high-value items. The import of an expensive piece of machinery for offshore oil project in 2016 led to one of Canada’s biggest ever trade deficits with the world.
Economists were quick to highlight the potentially artificial sheen on Thursday’s report thanks to the art shipment.
“Excluding this category, the value of exports would have fallen,” Derek Holt, an economist at Bank of Nova Scotia in Toronto, said in a note to investors. “Go figure. Missed that one in our models and general guesswork.”
--With assistance from Luke Kawa.