19 Mar

Great News on the Canadian Inflation front!


Posted by: Jen Lowe

Great News On The Inflation Front
The Consumer Price Index (CPI) rose 2.8% year-over-year in February, down from the 2.9% January pace and much slower than the 3.1% expected rate. Gasoline prices rose in Canada for the first time in five months, which led many analysts to forecast a rise in February inflation as seen in the US. However, offsetting the increase in gas prices was a deceleration in the cost of cellular services, food purchased from stores, and Internet access services.

Excluding gasoline, the headline CPI slowed to a 2.9% year-over-year increase in February, down from 3.2% in January. Prices for rent and the mortgage interest cost index continued to apply upward pressure on the headline CPI.

On a monthly basis, the CPI rose 0.3% in February, the same as in January. The most significant contributors to the monthly increase were higher travel tours and gasoline prices.

On a seasonally adjusted monthly basis, the CPI rose 0.1% in February.

Prices for food purchased from stores continued to ease year over year in February (+2.4%) compared with January (+3.4%). Slower price growth was broad-based, with prices for fresh fruit (-2.6%), processed meat (-0.6%), and fish (-1.3%) declining. Other food preparations (+1.4%), preserved fruit and fruit preparations (+4.0%), cereal products (+1.7%), and dairy products (+0.6%) decelerated in February.

February was the first month since October 2021 that grocery prices increased slower than headline inflation. The slower price growth is partially attributable to a base-year effect, as food purchased from stores rose 0.7% month over month in February 2023 due to supply constraints amid unfavourable weather in growing regions and higher input costs.

While grocery price growth has been slowing, prices continue to increase and remain elevated. From February 2021 to February 2024, prices for food purchased from stores increased by 21.6%.

The Bank of Canada’s preferred core inflation measures, the trim and median core rates, exclude the more volatile price movements to assess the level of underlying inflation. The CPI trim slowed two ticks to 3.2% in February, and the median also declined two ticks to 3.1% from year-ago levels, as shown in the chart below.
Bottom Line

The next meeting of the Bank of Canada Governing Council is on April 10. Before then, we will see two more important data releases:

  1. The Bank of Canada Business Outlook Survey and Canadian Survey of Consumer Expectation and;
  2. The Labour Force Survey for March.

Neither of these reports will likely derail the central bank’s move to cut interest rates by the June 10 meeting. Indeed, they could begin to cut rates at the April meeting. This would no doubt trigger a whopping Spring housing market, which is likely to be strong. There is significant pent-up demand for housing, and the prospect of home price increases could well move buyers off the sidelines if a surge in new listings comes to fruition.

The Canadian economy is particularly interest rate sensitive because of the vast volumes of mortgages that will be renewed in the next two years. Mortgage delinquency rates are already rising, so a gradual decline in interest rates is welcome news.

As the chart below shows, the three-month rolling average growth rates for the CPI trim and median core measures averaged 2.2% in February–their lowest reading in three years.

According to the Royal Bank economists, “Building on the January CPI report that was already showing broad-based easing in price pressures in Canada, the February report today reaffirmed those trends. Different measures of core inflation decelerated, and the diffusion index that measures the scope of inflation pressures also improved. That measure, however, was still showing slightly broader price pressures than pre-pandemic “norms”, suggesting there’s still room for more improvement.”

With the economy’s slow growth trajectory, the central bank has every reason to begin cutting interest rates soon.

Information provided by Dr. Sherry Cooper
Chief Economist, Dominion Lending Centres
6 Mar

No Recession in Canada, as Q4 GDP Growth Rose 1%


Posted by: Jen Lowe


The Bank of Canada Holds Rates Steady Until Core Inflation Falls Further

Today, the Bank of Canada held the overnight rate at 5% for the fifth consecutive meeting and pledged to continue normalizing the Bank’s balance sheet. Policymakers remain concerned about risks to the outlook for inflation. The latest data show that CPI inflation fell to 2.9% in January, but year-over-year and three-month measures of core inflation were in the 3% to 3.5% range. The Governing Council projects that inflation will remain around 3% over the first half of this year but also suggests that wage pressure may be diminishing. The likelihood is that inflation will slow more rapidly, allowing for a rate cut by mid-year. 

The Bank also noted that Q4 GDP growth came in stronger than expected at 1.0% but was well below potential growth, confirming excess supply in the economy.

Employment continues to rise more slowly than population growth. During the press conference, Governor Macklem said it was too early to consider lowering rates as more time is needed to ensure inflation falls towards the 2% target.

Bottom Line

The Bank of Canada expects that progress on inflation will be ‘gradual and uneven.’ “Today’s decision reflects the governing council’s assessment that a policy rate of 5% remains appropriate. It’s still too early to consider lowering the policy interest rate,” Macklem said in the prepared text of his opening statement. The Bank is pushing back on the idea that rate cuts are imminent.

High interest rates are dampening discretionary spending for households renewing mortgages at much higher monthly payments. As the economy slows in the first half of this year, the BoC will signal a shift towards easing. This could happen at the next meeting on April 10, when policymakers update their economic projections. This could prepare markets for a June rate cut.

“We don’t want to keep monetary policy this restrictive longer than we have to,” Macklem said. “But nor do we want to jeopardize the progress we’ve made in bringing down inflation.”

Courtesy of Dr. Sherry Cooper
Chief Economist, Dominion Lending Centres