Inflation Rose to 3.3%, but Core Inflation Improved
The Consumer Price Index (CPI) rose 3.3% y/y in July, up from a 2.8% rise in June. The acceleration in headline inflation was widely expected due to a base-year effect on gasoline prices, as a sizeable monthly decline in July 2022 (-9.2%) no longer impacts the 12-month movement. Excluding gasoline, the CPI rose 4.1% from 4.0% in June.
The mortgage interest cost index (+30.6%) posted another record year-over-year gain and remained the most significant contributor to headline inflation. The all-items excluding mortgage interest cost index rose 2.4% in July.
The CPI rose 0.6% in July, following a 0.1% gain in June, mainly due to higher monthly prices for travel tours, with July being a peak travel month. On a seasonally adjusted monthly basis, the CPI rose 0.5%.
Food price inflation eased last month but remains sticky.
The core inflation measures will hearten the Bank of Canada. CPI-trim eased to 3.6% y/y in July, continuing the downtrend following the November 2022 peak. CPI-median held steady at 3.7%.
The sizable slowdown in other economic indicators suggests that Q2 GDP growth slowed to roughly 1.0% in the second quarter--markedly below the 3.1% pace posted in Q1. Labour markets are also easing with a meaningful drop in job vacancies and a rising unemployment rate.
It is now likely that when the Bank of Canada meets again on September 6, the Governing Council will announce a pause in rate hikes. They will promise to remain ever vigilant, but there is a good chance that the overnight policy rate has peaked at 5%--up 1900% since March 2022.
We will unlikely see the first drop in the policy rate until June of next year. The Bank will proceed slowly, taking rates down by 25 bp increments. The low in the policy rate will probably be around 3%, well above the pre-pandemic level of 1.75%.
Dr. Sherry Cooper
Chief Economist, Dominion Lending Centres