November 21, 2014 / 1:38 PM / 3 years ago

Canada inflation jumps in October, pressuring the central bank

A man buys fresh produce from a street vendor as shopper's begin to return to Toronto's Chinatown district, April 29, 2003. REUTERS/Mike Cassese

OTTAWA (Reuters) - Canada’s annual inflation rate jumped last month as prices for shelter and food rose, putting pressure on the Bank of Canada’s stance that interest rates will remain low for some time.

Year-on-year inflation rose to 2.4 percent in October, Statistics Canada data showed on Friday. That was the highest level since June, surpassing economists’ expectations for a slight rise to 2.1 percent from September’s 2.0 percent.

The core inflation rate, which is closely watched by the central bank and strips out volatile items, rose to 2.3 percent, also topping forecasts. The figures sent the Canadian dollar to a three-week high against the greenback.

The Bank of Canada has shrugged off recent firmer inflation, saying the strength is likely temporary. Analysts said it will be difficult for the central bank to look past the numbers if the trend higher continues.

“With this unexpected pressure on the inflation side, it raises the probability of the Bank of Canada moving into a tightening mode,” said Paul Ferley, assistant chief economist at Royal Bank of Canada.

Prices in all of the major components of the consumer price index rose, with the cost of shelter up 2.8 percent in the last year, pushed higher by a 20.1 percent jump in natural gas prices. Food prices rose 2.8 percent.

“The increase in prices is pretty widespread, so it’s going to be difficult for the Bank of Canada to easily dismiss these higher inflation numbers,” said Sal Guatieri, senior economist at BMO Capital Markets.

“Clearly it removes any chance of the Bank of Canada cutting interest rates ... and it possibly could bring forward the timing of the Bank of Canada’s rate increase.”

On a month-on-month basis, consumer prices edged up 0.1 percent and core prices rose 0.3 percent. The annual rate was ahead of the central bank’s forecast for 2.2 percent CPI increase in the fourth quarter.

Still, the report in isolation was seen as unlikely to shift central bank policy in the near term. Mazen Issa, senior Canada macro strategist at TD Securities, said the bank will focus on labor market slack as reason for staying on the sidelines on rate policy.

“I don’t see the Bank of Canada really making too much of this because their bias is to remain on hold for an extended period of time,” Issa said.

Additional reporting by Solarina Ho, Euan Rocha and Andrea Hopkins in Toronto; Editing by Peter Galloway

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