By Paul Vieira
OTTAWA -- Canada's annual inflation slowed slightly in April yet remained above 2% for a third straight month, while a gauge measuring underlying prices rose to its highest level in six years.
Canada's consumer-price index rose 2.2% on a one-year basis in April, Statistics Canada said Friday, following a 2.3% increase in March. The April result was just shy of expectations for a 2.3% advance, according to economists at Royal Bank of Canada.
On a month-over-month basis, prices climbed 0.3% in April.
Underlying, or core, inflation edged higher in April. Based on three preferred gauges used by the Bank of Canada, average core inflation rose in April on a one-year basis to 2.03% -- or the highest level since February of 2012, the data agency said.
The Bank of Canada sets rate policy to achieve and maintain 2% inflation.
Canada's central bank will issue its next rate decision on May 30, and most economists expect it to remain on hold until July after raising rates three times in the past year. The central bank has said the economy is operating close to capacity and higher interest rates would be warranted over time. Still, the bank said it would remain cautious given the uncertainty posed by U.S. trade policy.
The U.S., Canada and Mexico missed on Thursday an informal deadline set by House Speaker Paul Ryan to hammer out a revised version of the North American Free Trade Agreement. Mr. Ryan warned he needed a completed deal this week to ensure it could pass through the Republican-controlled Congress before a new slate of lawmakers arrives next year. U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer said Thursday the countries were "nowhere near close to a deal."
Setting aside concerns over Nafta, recent Canadian economic indicators have produced positive surprises after slowing markedly for a half-year stretch. Annual average hourly wages surged 3.6% in April, according to recent employment figures, or the biggest one-year increase since July, 2012. Meanwhile, retail data for March, also released Friday, indicate sales rose 0.6% from February, or the biggest gain in five months.
As for the April inflation report, Statistics Canada said higher prices for gasoline, up 14.2%, and food purchased at restaurants, up 4.5%, were among the main contributors to the 12-month change in CPI. Excluding food and energy, annual inflation in Canada rose 1.8%.
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