OTTAWA  - Canada's trade deficit remained at $3.18 billion in September as imports and exports dropped for the fourth consecutive month, according to Statistics Canada data released on Friday.

 Analysts in a Reuters poll had forecast a shortfall of $3.00 billion. Since Statscan started compiling trade data in 1946, exports and imports never both declined for four months in a row.

Exports fell by 0.3 per cent to $43.56 billion. Shipments of motor vehicles and parts shrank by 10.6 per cent due to work stoppages and the introduction of changes to certain models destined for the U.S. market.

Excluding the auto sector, exports rose by 1.8 per cent in September.

Imports slipped by 0.3 per cent to $46.74 billion on widespread declines. Electronic and electrical equipment and parts dropped 4.6 per cent, mainly on lower imports of cellphones.

Exports to the United States fell by 1.2 per cent, while imports rose by 0.4 per cent. As a result, the trade surplus with the United States, which accounted for 74.1 per cent of Canadian goods exports in September, shrank to $2.16 billion from $2.66 billion in August.