Inflation hits Bank of Canada 2% target for second straight month

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OTTAWA — Canadian annual inflation came in at two per cent in July to hit the Bank of Canada’s ideal target for a second straight month.

Compared with a year earlier, consumers paid less last month for gasoline, internet services and traveller accommodation, Statistics Canada said Wednesday.

Prices showed strength in other areas, including an 18.9 per cent increase in the cost of fresh vegetables compared to the previous year. The consumer price index also found higher costs, year-over-year, for auto insurance, mortgage interest and passenger vehicles.

The average of Canada’s three gauges for core inflation, which are considered better measures of underlying price pressures by excluding volatile items, was also close to the central bank’s target at 2.03 per cent. It was up slightly from a revised reading of two per cent in June.

On their own, the headline and core numbers don’t put immediate pressure on the inflation-targeting Bank of Canada to adjust interest rates. The central bank can move the interest rate as a tool to try and promote or cool off inflation.

But with weakening global economic conditions related to the U.S.-China trade war some economists now expect governor Stephen Poloz to cut interest rates this fall — and perhaps as early as September.

The Canadian economy has continued to perform well despite mounting concerns about the global outlook.

A closer look at the inflation data for July, shows gas prices had less of a year-over-year fall than the previous month’s report. The smaller drop applied more upward pressure on the headline number as consumers paid more for gas in July compared with June.

By omitting pump prices, the agency said last month’s overall annual inflation number was 2.4 per cent.

Prices, the report said, increased in all eight of its major categories compared with a year earlier. However, annual price pressures in the services index slowed last month to 2.4 per cent, down from 2.8 per cent.

By region, consumer prices slowed the most in Manitoba and British Columbia, the report said. Statistics Canada attributed the deceleration in Manitoba to the July 1 drop in the province’s retail sales tax.

Here’s what happened in the provinces (previous month in brackets):

Newfoundland and Labrador: 2.0 per cent (0.9)
Prince Edward Island: 0.7 (0.5)
Nova Scotia: 1.1 (1.6)
New Brunswick: 1.8 (1.7)
Quebec: 2.2 (2.2)
Ontario: 2.1 (2.0)
Manitoba: 2.2 (2.7)
Saskatchewan: 2.0 (2.0)
Alberta: 1.3 (1.4)
British Columbia: 2.1 (2.6)

On a month-to-month basis, the agency said consumers paid 2.5 per cent less for telephone services in July compared with June. The drop followed pricing changes across the industry as wireless companies faced tougher competition.

The agency said the decrease in phone plan costs was offset somewhat by higher price tags on devices like smartphones and tablets. From June to July, the price of these devices rose 42.5 per cent.

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Andy Blatchford, The Canadian Press

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