December 21, 2017 / 3:00 PM / 2 months ago

Strong Canadian inflation, retail sales lift bets for rate hike in new year

OTTAWA (Reuters) - Higher gasoline prices lifted Canada’s November inflation rate to its highest level since the start of the year, while consumer spending was unexpectedly strong in October, boosting bets the central bank could raise interest rates early in the new year.

The annual inflation rate increased to 2.1 percent last month from 1.4 percent in October, Statistics Canada said on Thursday, topping forecasts for 2.0 percent.

It was the highest level since January and the first time inflation has hit the central bank’s 2 percent target since February. Underlying inflation also perked up, with two out of three of the Bank of Canada’s core measures rising on an annual basis.

The data, along with a better-than-expected 1.5 percent jump in October retail sales, sent the Canadian dollar higher against the greenback and raised expectations the Bank of Canada could increase rates as early as January after taking two hikes this year.

“These reports do increase the odds of more aggressive tightening from the Bank of Canada in 2018,” said Sal Guatieri, senior economist at BMO Capital Markets.

Bets in the markets of an increase in January rose to 52.8 percent from 37.9 percent ahead of the data, while a March hike was nearly fully priced in.

Governor Stephen Poloz said last week the central bank is increasingly confident the economy will need less stimulus over time.

Consumer prices were up in seven of the eight main consumer price categories, led by a 5.9 percent annual increase in the transportation component as gasoline prices accelerated.

Food prices were up 1.6 percent as consumers paid more for meat and fresh vegetables.

A 3.3 percent increase in motor vehicle sales lifted retail sales. Vehicle sales have been robust this year, putting 2017 on track to hit 2 million for the first time.

Retail sales volumes were also strong, up 1.4 percent, prompting economists at CIBC to lift their forecast for Friday’s October growth data to 0.3 percent. Economists polled by Reuters expect a 0.2 percent increase.

Separate data from payrolls processor ADP showed companies added 59,200 workers to their payrolls in November on gains in education and health care.

The new report, which is jointly developed with Moody’s Analytics, is derived from payrolls data of about 40,000 companies.

The more closely watched Statistics Canada report, which is based on a survey of about 56,000 households, earlier this month showed 79,500 jobs were created in November.

Additional reporting by Nichola Saminather in Toronto; Editing by David Gregorio

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