Canada Inflation Slows to 3.8%, Backing Interest Rate Pause

Canada’s rate of inflation unexpectedly slowed, with core measures showing some improvement, leaving room for the central bank to keep interest rates unchanged next week.

(Bloomberg) — Canada’s rate of inflation unexpectedly slowed, with core measures showing some improvement, leaving room for the central bank to keep interest rates unchanged next week.

The consumer price index rose 3.8% in September from a year ago, following a 4% increase in August, Statistics Canada reported Tuesday in Ottawa. That was slower than the median estimate of 4% in a Bloomberg survey of economists. 

On a monthly basis, the index fell 0.1%, versus expectations for an increase of 0.1%.

Two key yearly inflation measures that are tracked closely by the Bank of Canada and filter out components with more volatile price fluctuations — the so-called trim and median core rates — decreased, averaging 3.8%, from 4% a month earlier. That’s also slower than the 3.9% pace expected by economists.

A three-month moving average of underlying price pressures that Governor Tiff Macklem has flagged as key to policymakers’ thinking fell to an annualized pace of 3.67%, from 4.29% a month earlier, according to Bloomberg calculations.

Traders in overnight swaps pared bets on another hike from the Bank of Canada next week, falling from around 50% to about a quarter after the release. Bonds rallied and the loonie fell sharply, down about 0.6% to C$1.369 per US dollar at 8:38 a.m. Ottawa time.

Tuesday’s numbers ended a two-month string of accelerating headline inflation, and will likely give policymakers more confidence price gains will continue decelerating in coming months after the temporary setback in July and August. 

The unexpected deceleration in inflation doesn’t fully offset the upside surprises of the past few months, said Andrew Grantham, an economist with the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce.

“However, with activity in the economy stalling in Q2 and Q3, excess demand appears to be diminishing, suggesting that inflation should continue to decelerate in the quarters ahead without the need for further interest rate hikes.”

Earlier this week, the central bank’s surveys showed that both businesses and consumers believe the full impact of rate hikes is still to be felt, though inflation expectations remain elevated.

Federal Reserve policymakers are also grappling with a public view that inflation will stay well above the central bank’s target. Americans expect prices to climb at a 3.8% rate over the next year, the highest in five months, according to a survey reading from the University of Michigan. The US inflation rate was 3.7% in September, above its level in June and July.

Last week, Macklem said Canadian officials remain concerned that they aren’t seeing “downward momentum” in core measures, and they’re focused on analyzing how a slowing economy will influence prices. “It’s not so much about where inflation is now, it’s about where inflation’s going to be,” Macklem said.

September’s inflation figures will likely alleviate some of those concerns. This is the last inflation report before the Bank of Canada’s next rate decision on Oct. 25, when the majority of economists in a Bloomberg survey expect Macklem and his governing council to hold borrowing costs steady at 5% for the second straight meeting.

In August, inflation accelerated, with gains largely driven by higher gasoline prices, and core rates also increased.

In September, the year-over-year deceleration in headline inflation was broad-based, stemming from lower prices for some travel-related services, durable goods and groceries. On a monthly basis, the slowdown was mainly driven by lower month-over-month gasoline prices.

Goods inflation fell 0.3% from a month earlier, the first time since December 2022, and grew 3.6% from a year ago, versus 3.7% in August. Services inflation was unchanged from August, the first time it hasn’t grown on a monthly basis since November 2021, while the rate slowed to 3.9% on a yearly basis, from 4.3% in August.

Regionally, prices rose at a slower pace on a yearly basis compared with August in six provinces, except Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Quebec.

–With assistance from Erik Hertzberg.

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