OTTAWA -- Canadian wholesale sales fell 0.7 per cent in February to $68.8 billion as the building material and supplies sector and auto industry moved lower.

Statistics Canada said Friday the drop was the second move lower in three months, but noted that sales in February were still the second highest on record for the sector.

The drop in February followed a gain of 4.0 per cent in January.

Wholesale sales were lower in four of the seven subsectors.

The building material and supplies subsector fell 6.1 per cent in February as housing starts in Canada fell for a third consecutive month and U.S. housing starts hit a six-month low.

Sales of motor vehicles and motor vehicle parts and accessories dropped 2.5 per cent in February as automakers continued to deal with a shortage of computer chips used in a wide range of vehicles.

The food, beverage and tobacco subsector fell 0.9 per cent, while the machinery, equipment and supplies subsector lost 0.4 per cent.

The farm product subsector rose 4.3 per cent and personal and household goods gained 2.5 per cent. The miscellaneous subsector climbed 4.4 per cent in February.

In volume terms, wholesale sales fell 1.2 per cent in February.