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* Gas, auto prices push inflation rate up from 0.5 percent
* Monthly inflation posts greatest increase in 22 years
OTTAWA, March 27 (Reuters) - Higher prices for gas and autos helped push Canada's annual inflation rate in February up to 1.2 percent from a three-year-low of 0.5 percent in January, Statistics Canada said on Wednesday.
The rate, above the 0.8 percent predicted by market operators, is still well below the Bank of Canada's 2.0 percent target. The central bank is not expected to raise rates until late in 2014.
Inflation rose by 1.2 percent in February from January, a month-on-month jump not seen since the 1.2 percent recorded in January 1991, when the federal goods and services tax was introduced.
Gas prices advanced 3.9 percent year over year in February after dropping 1.8 percent in the 12 months to January. February gas prices rose by 8.4 percent from January, the largest month-on-month increase since the 8.8 percent seen in May 2008.
Purchases of passenger vehicles rose by 2.5 percent in the 12 months to February - when the number of manufacturers' rebates dropped - after falling 0.8 percent in the year to January.
The Bank of Canada's closely-watched core rate, which strips out volatile prices of items such as energy and some foodstuffs, rose 1.4 percent in the 12 months to February following a 1.0 percent year-on-year advance in January.