OTTAWA: Canada’s annual inflation rate ticked higher in July as prices for gasoline climbed, giving the Bank of Canada room to raise its key lending rate again in the fall. The annualized inflation rate last month was 1.2 per cent, up from 1 per cent in June, Statistics Canada said, adding the increase was in line with estimates. “Barring a major shock, we believe an October rate hike remains on track,” Douglas Porter, chief economist of BMO Financial Group, said after the agency released its numbers Friday morning. He said upward pressure on interest rates will continue in the coming months, based on the modest uptick reported by Statistics Canada in two of the central bank`s three core inflation indices, which exclude volatile items like gasoline. At 9:28 a.m. ET, the Canadian dollar was trading at 79.45 US cents, up 0.8 per cent as traders saw the consumer price index (CPI) numbers as reinforcing expectations that Canada’s central bank will continue on its path of rate hikes. Gains for the loonie came even as prices of oil, one of Canada’s major exports, edged lower. U.S. crude prices were down 0.19 per cent at $47 US a barrel. In the 12 months leading up to July, prices were up in six of the eight major areas tracked, with the transportation and shelter indexes contributing the most to the year-over-year rise in the CPI, Statistics Canada said.
Consumers paid 4.6 per cent more for gasoline in the 12 months to July, helping to drive transportation costs higher by 1.9 per cent, following a 0.6-per-cent increase in June. They also paid more for passenger vehicles, which saw prices increase 0.2 per cent after declining 0.2 per cent the previous month. On a monthly basis, gasoline prices rose 0.2 per cent, so were not a big factor in the CPI, said Porter. “The early read on August is that pump prices will rise about 3 per cent next month, versus a small drop a year ago, which should boost [total inflation] a tad further,” Porter said in a statement. The shelter index increased 1.3 per cent year over year in July, after rising 1.6 per cent in June. Homeowners’ replacement costs contributed the most to the gain in prices, rising 4.1 per cent in the 12 months to July. Prices for natural gas, up 9.7 per cent, increased at a slower year-over-year rate than they did in June. Meanwhile, the electricity index recorded its largest decrease since April 2003, down 9.1 per cent year over year in July, following a 5.3 per cent decline in June. The decline at the national level largely reflected legislated price declines in Ontario. Consumer prices for food rose 0.6 per cent on a year-over-year basis in July, matching the gain in June. “Food prices have also stopped dragging on inflation … after falling more than 4 per cent [on a year-over-year basis] earlier this year,” he said.