Canada’s inflation rate decelerated to 3.4 per cent in the year up to May, Statistics Canada said Tuesday, led by sharply lower gasoline prices.
That’s a significant slowdown from the 4.4 per cent pace seen in April.
Gasoline prices were the single biggest reason for the deceleration. If gasoline were stripped out, the inflation rate would be 4.4 per cent.
Gasoline prices are down, on average, by more than 18 per cent compared to the record highs they were hitting this time last year was enough to drag down the overall inflation rate just by itself.
But beneath the headline slowdown in consumer prices, the many facets of the cost of living are still increasing at an eye-watering pace.
Grocery prices went up at an almost nine per cent pace. That’s barely lower than the 9.1 per cent pace clocked in April, and still almost three times the inflation rate.
Food prices have been increasing at a faster pace than the official inflation rate since late 2021.
But putting food on the table isn’t the only household expense that’s getting harder to do. The cost of keeping a roof over one’s head continues to rocket higher, too.
The mortgage interest cost index rose 29.9 per cent in the year up to May. That’s the fastest pace on record, and it’s happening because the Bank of Canada has been aggressively hiking its lending rate in an attempt to cool demand.
That’s been a direct hit on anyone with a variable rate mortgage, where the cost of servicing the loan has been skyrocketing all year. Even fixed-rate loans are having to renew and lock in at much higher rates than they were paying before.
More expensive mortgage costs are the single biggest factor influencing the inflation rate, the data agency said. If mortgage costs were stripped out of the numbers, Canada’s headline inflation rate would have been 2.5 per cent. That’s down from 3.7 per cent in April.
Another rate hike possible
Trading in investments known as swaps imply investors think there’s about a 50/50 chance that Canada’s central bank will raise its benchmark lending rate from 4.75 to five per cent when it meets next month — and if they don’t it’s a virtual lock that it will happen in september.
Leslie Preston, an economist with TD Bank, noted that if you strip out volatile items like gasoline and mortgages, underlying inflation at around 3-4 per cent is still probably warm enough that the Bank of Canada is likely to think at least one higher rate the hike is warranted at some point.
“Cooler goods inflation is welcome, but the Bank of Canada has likely been counting on that already as supply chain snare improve,” she said. “Canadian inflation continued to cool in May, but progress is unlikely to be enough to prevent the Bank of Canada from raising rates in July.”
Food prices, which have been the subject of much controversy for many Canadians this year, should start coming down soon, she notes.
“We have seen inflation further up the supply chain that feeds into food prices come down dramatically in recent months,” she said in an interview with CBC News . “They don’t change prices overnight… Typically it’s about a year before us really start to see those sorts of commodity and energy prices reflected in retail food prices. So we do expect food inflation to cool but it is going to take some time.”