July 20, 2018 / 1:17 PM / a year ago

WRAPUP 1-Canada inflation hits six-year high, stirs talk of rate hike

OTTAWA, July 20 (Reuters) - Canada’s annual inflation rate hit a six-year high of 2.5 percent in June while May retail sales jumped, helping push up the Canadian dollar and stirring talk of another rate hike this year.

Statistics Canada on Friday said rising gas prices had helped boost the annual inflation rate to its highest since it stood at 2.6 percent in February 2012. Analysts in a Reuters poll had forecast a rate of 2.4 percent.

The Canadian dollar extended gains against the U.S. dollar after the data.

The central bank, which says it will reduce stimulus as the economy strengthens, last week raised interest rates for the fourth time in a year and signaled more hikes to come. Its next fixed date rate announcement is on Sept 5.

“This adds to the impression that the Bank could well go again in September,” said Derek Holt, vice president of capital markets economics at Scotiabank.

Annual inflation has now exceeded the Bank of Canada’s 2.0 percent target for a fifth straight month.

The Canadian dollar quickly rose to C$1.3144, or 76.08 U.S. cents, up from $1.3239, or 75.53 U.S. cents.

Separately, Statscan said Canadian retail trade in May jumped 2.0 percent, its biggest increase in seven months, on sales at auto dealers and gasoline stations.

“I don’t think any one report is going to tip the scale, but both these reports definitely lean in favor of another rate hike later this year,” said Doug Porter, chief economist at BMO Capital Markets.

Market expectations of an interest rate hike in September, as reflected in the overnight index swaps market, initially rose to 10.85 percent from 6.80 percent before settling back to 9.20 percent.

Statscan said the inflation data showed energy prices rose by 12.4 percent from June 2017, higher than the year-on-year 11.6 percent increase in May. Overall, seven of the eight major components grew at a quicker rate than they had done in May.

Two of the central bank’s core inflation measures came in at 2.0 percent. CPI common, which the central bank says is the best gauge of the economy’s underperformance, stayed unchanged at 1.9 percent.

The healthy retail sales were stronger than the 1.1 percent increase forecast by economists in a Reuters poll had predicted a 1.1 percent increase from April.

Sales at motor vehicles and parts dealers rose by 3.7 percent after a 3.8 percent decline in April, when many parts of the country were hit by bad weather.

Additional reporting by Andrea Hopkins in Ottawa and Susan Taylor and Danya Hajjaji in Toronto

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