16 Apr

Inflation News April 2024


Posted by: Cheryl Johns

Great News On The Inflation Front
The Consumer Price Index (CPI) rose 2.9% year-over-year in March, as expected, up a tick from the February pace owing to a rise in gasoline prices, as prices at the pump rose faster in March compared with February. Excluding gasoline, the all-items CPI slowed to a 2.8% year-over-year increase, down from a 2.9% gain in February.

Shelter prices increased 6.5% year over year in March, rising at the same rate as in February.
The mortgage interest cost index rose 25.4% y/y in March, following a 26.3% increase in February. The homeowners’ replacement cost index, which is related to the price of new homes, declined less in March (-1.0%) compared with February (-1.4%) on a year-over-year basis.

Rent prices continued to climb in March, rising 8.5% year over year, following an 8.2% increase in February. Among other factors, a higher interest rate environment, which can create barriers to homeownership, puts upward pressure on the index.

Prices for services (+4.5%) continued to rise in March compared with February (+4.2%), driven by air transportation and rent. This outpaced price growth for goods (+1.1%), which slowed compared with February (+1.2%) on a yearly basis.

On a seasonally adjusted monthly basis, the CPI rose 0.3% in March.

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 a tick to 3.1% y/y in March, and the median declined two ticks to 2.8% from year-ago levels, as shown in the chart below.
Bottom Line

Most importantly, the three-moving average of all core measures of Canadian inflation fell to below 2%, the Bank of Canada’s target inflation level. Governor Tiff Macklem got exactly what he was hoping for: Further confirmation that core inflation was falling within the target range.

Shelter remains the single most significant contributor to total inflation. Excluding shelter, inflation is tracking just 1.5% and has been below the central bank’s 2% target for most of the past six months. This has slowed economic activity, reducing consumer discretionary spending and making it more difficult for businesses to raise prices. Once interest rates fall, mortgage interest costs—a large component of shelter costs—will start falling.

The three-month annualized rates of the Bank of Canada’s core-median and trim indicators slowed to just 1.3% (see chart below), and the average year-over-year rates are down a tick to 3.0%. According to the economists at Desjardins, “the share of components in the CPI basket that are rising more than 3%, an indicator closely watched by Governor Macklem, is down to 38% from 41%. And the share of components showing price growth of less than 1% is up to 44% from 38% in February. Both suggest that the breadth of inflationary pressures is becoming more consistent with the Bank of Canada’s 2% target”.

We will see the April inflation data on May 21, before the next BoC decision date. While gasoline prices have continued to rise this month, so far, the gain has been more muted than in March. With any luck, today’s data will set the stage for the first BoC rate cut in June.

Written by Dr. Sherry Cooper
Chief Economist, Dominion Lending Centres