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Manitoba's inflation rate jumps in May

Manitoba's inflation rate is now one of the highest in the country.

JONATHAN HAYWARD / THE CANADIAN PRESS Enlarge Image

Manitoba's inflation rate is now one of the highest in the country.

The cost of living in Manitoba took another jump in May, and is now back up to one of the highest levels in the country, new Statistics Canada data shows.

The agency said Manitoba’s annual inflation rate climbed to 2.6 per cent last month from 2.3 per cent in April.

That’s back to where it was in January, and leaves Manitoba tied with Newfoundland and Labrador for the second highest annual inflation rate in the country after Ontario’s 2.8 per cent.

Some of the major contributors to the rising cost of living in Manitoba over the past year were a 11.4 per cent spike in natural gas prices, a 5.9 per cent hike in the cost of cigarettes, and a 4.2 per cent increase in both property taxes and gasoline prices.

And from April to May, some of the major contributors were a 9.9 per cent increase in the cost of clothing accessories, watches and jewellery; a 7.9 per cent hike in the cost of traveller accommodations; and a 5.4 per cent increase in the cost of men’s clothing.

Canada’s annual inflation rate also unexpectedly jumped to 2.3 per cent last month, as the continuing gain in energy prices pushed the key economic indicator above the Bank of Canada’s two-per-cent target for the first time in more than two years.

The three-tenths increase in the headline inflation reading, including an identical gain in the underlying core inflation reading to 1.7 per cent, will surprise markets and possibly the central bank as well. The annual inflation rate was two per cent in April.

Economists had expected the headline number to remain at or a touch over two per cent, but a stronger than expected spike in energy costs took the consumer price index to a point where even the central bank may need to revise its thinking.

Last week, bank governor Stephen Poloz came under fire from some analysts for maintaining that the recent run-up in the CPI from as low as 0.7 per cent in October was a temporary phenomenon primarily fuelled by energy costs and that the real danger still was a return to too low inflation.

Energy costs certainly remained frothy in May, rising by 8.4 per cent from last year as natural gas prices leaped by 21.3 per cent.

However, underlying core inflation — which excludes volatile items such as energy and some fresh foods — has also been on the march and the latest reading of 1.7 per cent is only three-tenths of a percentage point below target. On a month-to-month basis core rose 0.5 per cent, as did headline inflation.

Statistics Canada said the key contributors to the increase in core inflation were higher prices for meat, traveller accommodation and electricity. Consumers are paying 10 per cent more for beef than at the start of the year. Prices for fresh or frozen pork have risen by 12.2 per cent during the five-month period.

Some economists have suspected governor Poloz continues to emphasize low inflation risks, which suggests he is a long way from moving to higher interest rates, in order to "talk down" the Canadian dollar and keep conditions accommodating for Canada’s export sales.

The emerging view among analysts is that while there is little danger of runaway inflation, the risk of disinflation has also largely gone given the continuing strength in oil prices and expectations of a growing economy in the U.S. and Canada.

— Staff/Canadian Press

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