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Canadian inflation accelerates, shaking bets on policy hold

Canadian inflation accelerated in August, but gasoline prices drove much of the gain and many underlying price indicators continued to soften, helping ratify the Bank of Canada’s cautiously hawkish, data-dependent stance. Data released by Statistics Canada this morning showed the Consumer Price Index rising 4 percent on a year-over-year basis in August, up from the 3.3 percent increase recorded in July, and slightly above consensus expectations. On a month-over-month basis, the change climbed to 0.4 percent – beating market forecasts that had been set closer to the 0.2 percent mark.

Gasoline prices rose 4.6 percent month-over-month, and the energy sub-index jumped 4.6 percent year-over-year.

With energy prices excluded prices climbed just 0.1 percent: Food prices slowed their climb, falling -0.1 percent month-over-month, reversing lower after July’s 0.4-percent monthly increase. Shelter costs were up 6 percent year-over-year, with the pace picking up from July’s 5.1-percent pace as rate hikes continued to hit the housing market. Mortgage interest costs surged 30.9 percent from the prior year.

Core inflation, computed as the average of the two price measures now preferred by the Bank of Canada (trim and median), increased 4 percent over the same period last year, down from a revised 3.75 percent in the prior month. Core measures strip out highly-volatile categories, and are often used to develop a better understanding of price pressures in the underlying economy.

Today’s above-consensus print is likely to lift market-implied odds on a final hike at the Bank of Canada’s October meeting, and the oversold nature of the Canadian dollar going into the release suggests that exchange rate gains could be generated in the shorter term. But another inflation report will land before the meeting, and we suspect an accumulation of evidence pointing to an economic slowdown will ultimately convince traders of a more dovish tilt. Gradual rate cuts should begin by autumn 2024, matching the pace seen south of the border as the North American economy comes in for a harder landing.

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