RPT-WRAPUP 1-Benign Canada inflation eases pressure for rate hike
* Inflation well below Bank of Canada's 2 percent target
* Bank not expected to raise rates until second half of 2014
* Wholesale sales unexpectedly remain flat
By David Ljunggren
OTTAWA, April 19 (Reuters) - Canada's annual inflation rate in March slowed to 1.0 percent from 1.2 percent in February, further underlining how little pressure there is on the Bank of Canada to raise rates any time soon.
The main reason for the drop in the annual rate was lower gas prices, Statistics Canada said on Friday. The March rate was slightly less than the 1.1 percent predicted by economists.
The Bank of Canada - which has kept its overnight lending rate at a near record low since September 2010 - this week said it did not expect inflation to hit its 2 percent target until mid-2015. The central bank is not expected to raise rates until the second half of 2014.
"After quite a bit of volatility in the prior few months, Canadian inflation has shown its true colors a little more clearly this month - and those colors are pretty bland," said Doug Porter, chief economist at BMO Capital Markets. Continued...