For the first time in seven years, the Bank of Canada announced today that it was hiking its key overnight rate by a quarter percentage point (25 basis points) bringing it to 0.75 percent as the economy has staged a broadly based economic expansion this year. In a break from tradition, the Bank has taken this action even though inflation remains well below its target rate of 2 percent. Indeed, inflation has hit its lowest level since 1999. The consumer price index (CPI), released in late June, rose only 1.3 percent in May from a year ago, down from an annual pace of 1.6 percent in April. Both Governor Poloz and Senior Deputy Governor Wilkins have emphasized that the Bank must begin to hike rates pre-emptively due to the lagged effect of monetary tightening.
Measures of annual core inflation, a key indicator tracked by the Bank of Canada, which excludes volatile components such as food and energy, fell to its lowest in almost two decades. The average of the central bank’s three core measures declined to 1.3 percent, its lowest level since March 1999. The Bank has recently played down sluggish inflation numbers, suggesting they reflect the lagged effects of past excess capacity. Incoming inflation figures have been well below the Bank’s forecasts and will likely remain low for some time as oil prices are wobbling downward and wage inflation is a mere 1.3 percent–just keeping up with core inflation.