The pace of inflation unexpectedly cooled in June, despite jumps in the cost of gasoline and basic foodstuffs.
Statistics Canada said the annual inflation rate was 3.1 per cent in June, down from 3.7 per cent in May.
The Bank of Canada’s core rate was 1.3 per cent. This excludes eight of the most volatile components in the consumer price index — including fruit and vegetables, fuels, tobacco products and mortgage interest costs, as well as the effect of indirect taxes.
The statistics agency said much of the drop in the rate from June was due to lower prices for passenger vehicles because of manufacturers’ discounts and lower costs for travel accommodation.
Economist Avery Shenfeld of CIBC called the report “shocking on the low side.”
Doug Porter, deputy chief economist for BMO Capital Markets said: “Overall, big surprise, big relief.”
The news likely will ease pressure on the Bank of Canada to act on interest rates.
While the pace of inflation slowed, higher prices for gasoline and food bought from stores kept the rate above three per cent.
Food prices rose 4.8 per cent from June of 2010 and overall energy prices were 15.7 per cent higher than a year earlier.
The price of gasoline was 28.5 per cent higher on a year-over-year basis, although it actually dropped slightly compared with May.
The inflation report came just days after the Bank of Canada said it would keep its key interest rate at one per cent.
Porter said the latest figures give the bank some time.
“Today’s much more benign reading for both headline and core inflation takes the near-term pressure off the Bank of Canada to do anything quickly on rates — assuming of course we don’t get yet another massive reversal in prices next month.”
Shenfeld said the report likely surprised the central bank, especially the core rate.
“All told, some key breathing room for the [bank] since even though the core rate will likely drift up as some low numbers drop out from the 12-month calculation in the coming quarter, odds now favour it remaining below two per cent.”
Consumers were still paying more for many commodities.
The cost of transportation rose 7.0 per cent on an annual basis to June. In addition to higher gas prices, drivers paid 4.4 per cent more for insurance.
The cost of air travel was 7.6 per cent higher.
Food prices rose broadly on a year-to-year basis. Meat prices increased 5.9 per cent, while the cost of bread jumped 10.1 per cent and fresh vegetables cost 8.4 per cent more.
The cost of restaurant meals, however, rose by only 3.3 per cent.
Shelter costs rose 1.7 per cent from June 2010, with higher prices for fuel oil, electricity. However, mortgage interest costs slipped 1.9 per cent and natural gas was also cheaper.
Cable and satellite services cost 7.9 per cent more than in June 2010.
The pace of inflation slowed in every province compared with May. Nova Scotia had the fastest increase in consumer prices at 4.4 per cent, while Alberta had the slowest, at 2.1 per cent.
Note to readers: This is a corrected story. A previous version incorrectly attributed a comment to David Porter, rather than Doug Porter.