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The elephant in the inflationary room': Economists react to CPI data



After Statistics Canada revealed its latest consumer price index (CPI) report, economists are closely analyzing the data, hinting at potential shifts in monetary policy and shedding light on underlying economic trends. The report showed a 2.8 percent drop in annual inflation, marking the second consecutive month of softer-than-expected figures. This downward trajectory has prompted discussions about the possibility of interest rate cuts by the Bank of Canada (BoC), with a particular focus on shelter prices.


In an interview with financial experts, Dylan Smith, a senior economist at Rosenberg Research, highlighted the significance of these CPI trends. Smith indicated that the BoC is likely considering interest rate cuts in response to the persistent decline in inflation. He emphasized the importance of evaluating not only headline inflation but also factors such as shelter and wage data to gain a comprehensive understanding of economic dynamics. Additionally, Smith noted the ongoing "global game" between the U.S. and Canada regarding interest rate adjustments, suggesting that the actions of one country could have ripple effects on the other's economy.


Other economists echo Smith's sentiments, emphasizing the need to look beyond headline inflation figures. Tu Nguyen, an economist with RSM Canada, suggested that the recent CPI data could pave the way for a rate cut as early as June. Nguyen highlighted the easing inflationary pressures in various sectors, particularly in groceries, where prices have begun to rise more slowly. He stressed the importance of considering underlying price pressures beyond volatile factors like gasoline prices.


Similarly, Shannon Terrell, a financial expert from Nerd Wallet Canada, viewed the latest CPI data as a positive development, signaling a potential end to pandemic-induced inflation. Terrell pointed to declining price growth in essential goods like groceries and noted significant drops in the costs of services such as cell phone and internet services.


However, despite these positive indicators, concerns linger among economists. The Conference Board of Canada highlighted the persistent growth in service prices as a major contributor to inflationary pressures. Senior economist Kiefer Van Mulligen referred to this phenomenon as "the elephant in the inflationary room," emphasizing the significance of service price dynamics, particularly in the housing sector. Mulligen pointed out substantial increases in shelter costs, including mortgage interest and rent, which represent a significant portion of the consumer basket in Canada.


As discussions about the trajectory of inflation and potential monetary policy responses continue, economists are closely monitoring various economic indicators to gauge the health of the Canadian economy. The upcoming months will likely provide further insights into whether the BoC will proceed with interest rate adjustments in response to evolving inflationary trends.


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