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Manitoba’s annual inflation rate up a notch to 2.3 per cent in March

Manitoba’s annual inflation rate edged up a notch to 2.3 per cent in March from 2.2 per cent the previous month, Statistics Canada said today.

That was the fourth highest inflation rate among the provinces, and nearly a full percentage point higher than Canada’s annual rate of 1.5 per cent.

However, it’s still only slightly above the Bank of Canada’s target rate for Canada of two per cent. It’s also still lower than the start of the year, when Manitoba’s rate was 2.6 per cent.

Nationally, a big jump in energy costs and cigarette prices helped push up Canada’s inflation rate to 1.5 per cent last month, matching the highest level in the annualized consumer price index in almost two years.

The increase, while significant, was mostly in line with the expectations of analysts, who had calculated that the observed strengthening of oil and natural gas prices last month would play a dominant role in the report Thursday.

The biggest contributor was energy, which rose 4.6 per cent overall, but also included a 17.9 per cent jump in the natural gas index, while electricity was five per cent higher and the cost of fuel oil increased 9.1 per cent.

But also noteworthy was a 7.6 per cent increase in cigarette prices, due mostly the addition of new excise taxes on the product announced in the February federal budget.

Regionally, the biggest jump in inflation occurred in Alberta, where natural gas prices skyrocketed 81.5 per cent over last year’s levels and 49.6 per cent over February. The province’s annual inflation rate shot up to 3.9 per cent in March from 2.4 in February.

On a month-to-month basis, average consumer prices climbed 0.6 per cent, mostly due to a three per cent increase in gasoline from February.

On Wednesday, Bank of Canada governor Stephen Poloz said he expects inflation to steadily climb to near the bank’s desired two per cent target over the next few months, but added that he believed the trend was mostly due to temporary factors, particularly energy.

For a clearer picture of underlying inflationary pressure, Poloz said he would pay more attention to the core index, which excludes volatile items and in March remained tame. It inched up just one-tenth of a point to 1.3 per cent.

— Staff/Canadian Press

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