Canadian manufacturing sales declined less than expected in February after three consecutive months of increases, weighed down by declines in the vehicle assembly sector, data from Statistics Canada showed on Thursday.

The 0.2 per cent decrease was not as steep as the 0.7 per cent decline economists had expected, though January was revised down to a gain of 0.1 per cent from an initially reported 0.6 per cent.

Sales fell in 10 out of 21 industries in February, accounting for 37 per cent of the manufacturing sector. Stripping out the effects of price changes, volumes were up 0.1 per cent.

Sales in the motor vehicle assembly sector tumbled 5.3 per cent as fewer vehicles were produced. A five per cent decline in the petroleum and coal products sector weighed on overall sales as the sector was hurt by lower prices and volumes.

Forward-looking new orders rose 0.8 per cent, led by increased demand in the transportation equipment, clothing and fabricated metal sectors.

The small dip in sales was not likely to change economists' expectations that economic growth was solid in the first quarter. The Bank of Canada on Wednesday revised up its growth forecast for the quarter to 3.8 per cent.