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Inflation rate 1.6% for second month amid higher energy prices, lower food costs

Last Updated May 19, 2017 at 9:13 am EDT

The country’s annual inflation rate once again rang in at 1.6 per cent last month as higher energy costs offset a seventh consecutive decline in grocery prices, Statistics Canada said Friday.

The agency’s consumer price index for April identified higher prices for gasoline and natural gas as the biggest upward drivers in year-over-year inflation.

On the other hand, fresh produce and clothing applied the most downward pressure on the inflation rate.

The annual inflation rate matched Statistics Canada’s reading for March but was below a consensus estimate of 1.7 per cent, according to Thomson Reuters data.

Prices at the pump were 15.9 per cent higher last month and the cost of natural gas rose 15.2 per cent more, Statistics Canada said.

Overall food prices were down 1.1 per cent as prices for fresh fruits fell 6.2 per cent, fresh vegetables slipped 5.9 per cent and meat dropped 2.1 per cent.

In addition, the cost of kids’ clothing was 6.2 per cent lower and women’s clothes cost 2.8 per cent less in April, compared with a year earlier.

Statistics Canada said the inflation rate was higher in three provinces, including Saskatchewan, which easily saw the biggest acceleration after it raised its provincial sales tax in late March.

Saskatchewan’s annual inflation rate sped up to 1.4 per cent last month after rising just 0.6 per cent in March.

Prices rose at a slower pace year-over-year in five provinces, while they were unchanged in two provinces.

Two of the agency’s three measures of core or underlying inflation slowed last month, while the third was unchanged. The indicators are designed to strip away more volatile components of the report, and are closely scrutinized by the Bank of Canada.

CPI-common stayed at 1.3 per cent last month, CPI-median decelerated to 1.6 from 1.7 and CPI-trim slowed to 1.3 from 1.4.

The agency also released its latest retail trade numbers, which showed total sales in March delivered a larger than expected rebound by rising 0.7 per cent. The data followed a month-over-month February contraction of 0.4 per cent.

Total retail trade in March was nearly $48.3 billion thanks to stronger sales at motor vehicle and parts dealers, which was mostly due to an increase in new car purchases, the report said.

Economists had predicted a 0.4 per cent increase in retail trade for March, according to Thomson Reuters.