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Economists expect inflation rate ticked up above 3% last month amid higher gas prices



Economic experts are forecasting a surge in inflation for February, largely attributed to the escalating costs of gasoline. This upward trend reaffirms the belief that achieving a stable two percent inflation rate will be a challenging endeavor.


The eagerly awaited report by Statistics Canada on Tuesday is expected to reveal a notable increase in the Consumer Price Index (CPI) for February. Consensus among analysts indicates a 3.1 percent rise compared to the same period last year.


This projected hike would reverse some of the gains made in January, when the annual inflation rate had decelerated to 2.9 percent.


Royce Mendes, managing director and head of macro strategy at Desjardins, explained, "We're looking for inflation to re-accelerate due to higher energy prices during the month. It seems that inflation will likely hover around the three percent mark for the next few months."


This inflationary uptick poses a slight dilemma for the Bank of Canada, which is widely anticipated to initiate cuts in its policy interest rate in the upcoming months.


However, Mendes suggests that a more crucial aspect to observe in Tuesday's report is the analysis of underlying price pressures. These metrics are instrumental in helping economists ascertain the future trajectory of inflation.


Governor Tiff Macklem of the Bank of Canada has previously highlighted that nearly half of the components in the Consumer Price Index are currently experiencing a rate of increase exceeding three percent. Such a scenario is atypical, indicating potentially turbulent inflationary conditions.


The Bank of Canada has underscored the importance of long-term economic trends and inflation patterns over monthly fluctuations. Nonetheless, Macklem has emphasized the necessity of avoiding premature interest rate cuts, opting to wait for clearer indications of inflation steering back toward the bank's targeted two percent mark.


Douglas Porter, Chief Economist at BMO, remarked, "This would serve as a prime example from the bank's repository as to why caution is warranted."


The Bank of Canada has maintained its key interest rate at five percent since July, awaiting stronger evidence of inflation nearing the two percent threshold. Previous projections from the bank suggested achieving this target by 2025, a forecast echoed by many economists.


Porter points out that forecasts are subject to uncertainty, particularly influenced by volatile energy prices, which wield significant influence over overall inflation.


The forthcoming report holds significant weight as it precedes the Bank of Canada's critical April interest rate announcement. While no immediate changes to the policy rate are anticipated, market analysts foresee potential adjustments in the subsequent June meeting.


Porter emphasized the importance of the April meeting in signaling future policy directions, although acknowledging the unpredictability of economic dynamics over a short span.


The impending federal budget presentation in April and subsequent economic data leading up to the June decision will heavily influence the Bank of Canada's deliberations.


In summary, while economists brace for a probable inflation surge in February, the broader economic landscape and policy decisions remain contingent upon forthcoming data and developments.


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