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Canada's inflation rate cools to 7%, but food prices are still climbing – CBC News

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Canada’s inflation rate cooled to seven per cent in August, Statistics Canada said Tuesday.

Economists had been expecting the rate to come in at 7.3 per cent, after inflation rose to a 40-year high of 8.1 per cent earlier this summer.

Instead, the rate decelerated by even more than expected, in large part because gasoline got much cheaper during the month.

Gas prices fell by 9.6 per cent in August from where they were the previous month. That is the biggest one-month drop in gasoline prices since April 2020, when the pandemic was just beginning.

While gasoline got a little cheaper, food prices continued their increase — the cost of groceries has risen by 10.8 per cent in the past year.

That’s the fastest increase in the typical grocery bill since 1981.

“The supply of food continued to be impacted by multiple factors, including extreme weather, higher input costs, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and supply chain disruptions,” the data agency said.

The cost of edible fats and oils is up by almost 28 per cent in the past year, while coffee and tea prices are up by more than 13 per cent. Bakery products are another standout, up by more than 13 per cent in the past 12 months.

WATCH | How Canadians are dealing with higher food prices:

How are you dealing with high food prices?

5 hours ago

Duration 1:23

On the streets of Toronto, shoppers tell CBC News about how high prices for food are taking a bite out of their family budgets.

Pedro Antunes, an economist with the Conference Board of Canada, says that while high and rising food prices are problematic, he’s seeing encouraging signs that some prices are starting to come down.

Although still up on an annual basis, prices for proteins like some frozen meat, fish, eggs and nuts were lower in August than they were in July, according to Statistics Canada.

“When we look at the commodity prices for grains and … red meat and other products, some of those prices are starting to come down,” he said.

On a monthly basis, the inflation rate fell by 0.3 per cent. That’s the biggest monthly cool-down since 2020. And so-called core inflation — which strips out volatile items like food and energy — fell to 5.2 per cent, down from 5.4 per cent the previous month.

“The relief in core inflation provides a powerful signal that the Bank of Canada’s rate hikes are having an impact,” said Tu Nguyen, an economist with consultancy RSM Canada.

But even at seven per cent, the official inflation rate is still more than twice as high as the central bank likes to see. Which means consumers and borrowers should expect even more rate hikes to come.

“Grocery prices still rise rapidly and rapid wage growth means inflationary pressures remains [so] it is not yet time to breathe a total sigh of relief,” Nguyen said.

Prince Edward Island resident Jennifer Cullen says inflation is nowhere near being under control for her family. She tries to save money any way she can, she said, and one way she’s managed to stretch those pennies is by shopping at vintage and used clothing stores.

“My kids are very active and they grow very fast, so I’m changing shoes and clothes every two months with one of my boys,” she told CBC News while browsing the aisles of Repeats Clothing in Charlottetown.

Store owner Mary Matthews says she’s noticed an uptick in sales of late, as families stretch their budgets. And while higher sales may be good for her bottom line, her costs have increased too, as her inventory costs about twice what it did last year.

“It’s hitting all of us,” Matthews said. “Everything is costing more.”

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More interest rate hikes are needed to tame inflation, Bank of Canada governor says – Global News

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Signs that global inflation pressures are easing are not enough to curb future interest rate hikes as the national economy is still running too hot, the Bank of Canada’s top policymaker says.

Tiff Macklem said in a speech Thursday to the Halifax Chamber of Commerce that even as inflationary pressures beyond Canada’s border such as high global shipping rates and supply chain concerns subside, domestic sources of price growth such as demand for services remain too hot.

Read more:

Canada’s supply chains ‘desperately’ need overhaul amid global pinch: report

The annual rate of inflation clocked in at 7.0 per cent in August as gasoline costs continued to fall, per Statistics Canada, though prices on food continued to surge, hitting a 41-year high.

Macklem also said surging demand for travel and recreation after the end of COVID-19 restrictions fuelled inflation.

Those forces have helped keep the Bank of Canada’s core metrics of inflation hot even as the headline figure from Statistics Canada has slowed in two consecutive months.

“When combined with still-elevated near-term inflation expectations, the clear implication is that further interest rate increases are warranted. Simply put, there is more to be done,” Macklem said Thursday.

The Bank of Canada, as an institution, and Macklem specifically have been targets in recent months for federal Conservative leader Pierre Poilievre, who charges the central bank with enabling the Liberal government agenda and contributing to rampant inflation.


Click to play video: 'Poilievre accuses Trudeau of ‘increasing the cost’ of Thanksgiving dinner'



2:03
Poilievre accuses Trudeau of ‘increasing the cost’ of Thanksgiving dinner


Poilievre accuses Trudeau of ‘increasing the cost’ of Thanksgiving dinner

During his leadership campaign, Poilievre said he would fire Macklem from his post if he became prime minister, a proposal that has received backlash in turn as not respecting the independence of the institution.

Global National anchor Dawna Friesen asked Macklem in an interview following his speech on Thursday about his response to the Conservative leader.

The governor told Friesen that the central bank’s independence is the reason it’s able to “deliver price stability” and control inflation — a task he was resolute in his comments Thursday the Bank of Canada would be able to accomplish.

“I can tell you, I go to work every day, that’s my focus. Inflation is hurting Canadians. The best way to protect Canadians from high inflation is to eliminate it.”

How high will interest rates go?

The Bank of Canada’s policy rate currently sits at 3.25 per cent, following an increase of 0.75 percentage points on Sept. 7.

The central bank’s benchmark rate has jumped up three percentage points across five consecutive hikes since March, which Macklem acknowledged Thursday is “one of the steepest and fastest tightening cycles we’ve ever conducted.”

CIBC chief economist Avery Shenfeld said in a note to clients Thursday that Macklem’s speech “had a fairly hawkish tilt,” implying a more aggressive stance on monetary policy.


Click to play video: 'Your Money: Tips for managing monthly mortgage payments due to rising interest hikes.'



4:53
Your Money: Tips for managing monthly mortgage payments due to rising interest hikes.


Your Money: Tips for managing monthly mortgage payments due to rising interest hikes – Sep 22, 2022

The central bank had signalled back in September that more interest rate hikes would be needed to tame inflation. But Shenfeld said Macklem’s remarks meant the next rate decision on Oct. 26 was “still a lock” for an increase of half a percentage point with a pause afterwards unlikely.

Warren Lovely and Taylor Schleich of National Bank Financial (NBF) said in a note that they also expect a move greater than the standard 25-basis-point step later this month, with the policy rate ending the year “at no less than” four per cent.

The NBF economists said that Macklem’s tone was reminiscent of recent speeches from U.S. Federal Reserve chair Jerome Powell, who has promised more “pain” to come in efforts to tame inflation south of the border.

Read more:

U.S. Fed chair signals ‘pain’ ahead; more rate hikes needed to tame inflation

Indeed, Macklem was adamant that as the labour market remains tight and wages are beginning to grow, Canada’s economic growth must slow to give supply time to catch up with pent-up consumer demand.

“This will help relieve price pressures here in Canada,” he said.

Weak Canadian dollar fuelling inflation

Asked whether he still believed Canada will skirt a recession, Macklem maintained it is possible to avoid the economic downturn but conceded there are many factors that could complicate those efforts.

Global supply chain issues persist with pandemic-related lockdowns in China, war continues in Europe and inflation could prove “sticky” at home, he cited as ongoing issues the bank is monitoring.

“There is a path to a soft landing but it is a narrow path and there are risks,” he said.


Click to play video: 'Will Canada see a recession by the end of 2022?'



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Will Canada see a recession by the end of 2022?


Will Canada see a recession by the end of 2022?

“How high interest rates need to go … really depends on how inflation and the economy responds.”

One such inflationary pressure is the relative weakness of the Canadian dollar to the U.S. greenback.

Usually when a country’s central bank raises interest rates, the national currency gets a boost as investors are incentivized to hold that denomination.

Read more:

The loonie is at a nearly 2-year low. What does that mean for inflation?

But the Canadian loonie — like most currencies around the world, in fact — has faltered as of late due to the overwhelming strength of the U.S. dollar. The Canadian dollar is at a more-than two-year low of 73 cents to the U.S. dollar as of Thursday.

That’s driving up the prices of imports from the U.S. and weakening the purchase power of Canadians who travel south for the winter, contributing to inflation.

Macklem said Thursday that the lagging loonie means “there’s going to be more to do on interest rates.”

Weighing the wage question

In his speech Thursday, Macklem continued to try to set expectations for inflation in the near- and long-term, pledging the central bank would fulfill its mandate to bring price growth back to its two-per-cent target.

Speaking from Halifax, he alluded to the rebuilding efforts underway following the devastation from storm Fiona as providing resolve for the Bank of Canada’s own campaign.

“Atlantic Canadians will rebuild after this storm as they always have. And the Bank of Canada will control inflation as it has for the last 30 years. We are resolute in our commitment to restore price stability for all Canadians,” he said.

Read more:

Economists cry foul over Bank of Canada revisions to key inflation gauge

Inflation expectations are a critical part of the fight against inflation itself. When consumer and employer expectations for inflation become “unanchored,” they begin demanding higher wages to offset the impact, which then feeds back into prices themselves as businesses pass on costs to the end-user.

The “wage-price spiral” is a worst-case scenario for the Bank of Canada, Macklem explained, and would require much higher interest rates to tame.

“Once you get into a wage-price spiral, it’s too late,” he said.

But as Macklem has preached this to business leaders and warned them against raising wages too high amid the inflation fight, some have accused the central bank governor of overstepping his bounds and disrupting collective bargaining.

When the governor spoke to the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB) in July, he warned attendees not to bake today’s inflation levels into long-term wage contracts.

The Canadian Labour Congress has taken issue with this tact — president Bea Bruske said in a statement last month that she’s “deeply concerned about the Bank’s preoccupation with encouraging companies to push down wages, at a time when so many workers struggle to make ends meet.”

Macklem was asked about his wage messaging on Thursday. He maintained that he is leaving decisions about payroll up to businesses, and to workers to decide what wages they are willing to accept.

But he said his guidance has been to not bake high levels of inflation into long-term discussions about salary.

“What I’ve been telling workers, what I’ve been telling businesses, is as you take your decisions, don’t count on inflation staying where it is,” he said.

“Inflation is coming down, and workers and businesses can count on that.”

— with files from Reuters


Click to play video: 'How inflation will take a big bite out of Thanksgiving'



5:59
How inflation will take a big bite out of Thanksgiving


How inflation will take a big bite out of Thanksgiving

© 2022 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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OPEC Output Cut Sends A Clear Message To The Market

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  • OPEC+ on Wednesday decided to cut the output quota by 2 million bpd.
  • Heightened volatility in oil markets has been one of the key reasons for OPEC+ to cut output.
  • A second reason behind the cut is the need to improve the spare capacity of some of the key oil producing nations.
  • U.S. refinery utilization rates have been unusually strong this year.

OPEC

On Wednesday 5th October, OPEC+, at its 45th Joint Ministerial Monitoring Committee meeting held in Vienna, agreed to cut daily oil production by 2 million barrels per day. As it was the first in-person ministerial meeting for OPEC+ since March 2020, which itself signaled that a major announcement was looming, it was fitting that the group announced the biggest oil production cut since the start of the Covid pandemic. The size of the cut, equivalent to around 2% of global daily oil production, was significantly larger than the expected figure of 1 million bpd. However, according to Reuters, as several OPEC+ member states fell short of their target production levels in August, the real cut is estimated to be less than 1 million barrels per day. Given the magnitude of this step, it is worth looking into the role the group plays in the global oil market and how this latest production cut might affect prices.

OPEC’s Role

The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, or OPEC, was founded in 1960 and consists of 13 members which account for around 82% of global oil reserves and 30% of oil production. While neither the US nor Russia is part of the group, the latter is part of OPEC+, a wider association that includes 10 non-OPEC countries with shared interests in the oil market. The group, unofficially led by Saudi Arabia, sets production targets for its member countries which influence the global supply of oil, although its targets are not always met by all members. While there are other influencing factors on both the supply and demand side, OPEC+ does exercise a significant influence on the supply and therefore the price of crude oil.

OPEC has been accused on many occasions of behaving like a cartel, unnecessarily restricting supply in order to maintain high revenues from oil exports. The group denies this; OPEC’s secretary general Mohammad Barkindo stated earlier this year that the organisation had “no control” over the spike in oil prices following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. However, it remains true that due to the proportional significance of oil revenues to OPEC members’ economies, the group certainly benefits from high oil prices.

 

Incentives to Intervene

In the past few months, there has been notable price volatility in the oil market, though the overall trend has been bearish since the Q2 peak of $123.58 per barrel on June 8th as shown in the graph above. In the past 10 days, oil prices have been hovering between $84 and $90 per barrel and the threat of oil’s value slipping even further is a key reason behind the decision taken by OPEC+.

A second reason behind the cut is the need to improve the spare capacity of some of the key oil producing nations, particularly Saudi Arabia. With the looming threat of a US-led price cap being imposed on Russian oil exports, the expectation is that supply may become even tighter, at which point Saudi Arabia would then increase production once again to take advantage of higher prices. In cutting production ahead of any price cap being introduced on Russian oil, OPEC+ is also sending a strong message to the US that buyers will not dictate oil prices.

Russia also has much to gain from higher oil prices. Due to the sanctions imposed on the nation following its invasion of Ukraine, the buying market into which Russia can sell its oil has been reduced to a few remaining participants. Furthermore, Russia and Saudi Arabia arguably have more to gain from high oil prices than anywhere else; the nations are the third and second largest producers of oil, only behind the US, yet their energy revenues are more proportionally more significant than in the diversified economy of the United States.

The movement towards an alliance between Riyadh and Moscow will frustrate the United States. Earlier this year, President Biden travelled to Saudi Arabia ostensibly to negotiate commitments to greater oil production from the nation. The trip was particularly significant given Biden’s criticism of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, in relation to his alleged connection to the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. This latest announcement from OPEC+ casts Biden’s trip to Riyadh in an unfavourable light, and adds pressure to his administration in the run-up to the nation’s midterm elections in November.

Record Refinery Margins

While the oil market headlines will initially be dominated by OPEC+ announcements, another part of the industry that will come under examination in the coming months is the refinery sector. Refinery utilisation rates have been unusually strong this year and, as noted by Reuters, could remain above 90% in the US for a third consecutive quarter in Q4 2022. The US has particularly maximised its refinery capacity due to pressure on the industry from the Biden administration to lower domestic gasoil and diesel prices as the midterms loom.

Elsewhere in the world, refineries have also been run at high levels for two reasons. The first is due to the capacity that was lost as plants were forced to close during the Covid pandemic, meaning there is now a lesser total amount of global crude oil refining capacity. The second, more significant, reason is that margins for refiners have ballooned to record levels this year. This issue was explained by Erwin Seba for Reuters: “the margin from selling diesel from a barrel of oil and replacing that barrel, called the diesel crack spread, this week [26/09/22 – 02/10/22] was about $54 per barrel on the Gulf Coast, compared to about $12 a year ago, according to Refinitiv.” This level of profiteering within the refinery industry may come under closer inspection if global oil prices rally back north of the $100 per barrel mark.

Back in August, Saudi Arabian Energy Minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman cited “extreme” volatility as a key reason why OPEC might need to step in and protect the integrity of the oil market. Wednesday’s announcement of a production cut of 2 million barrels per day is unlikely to instantly relieve the oil market of the price volatility seen during 2022, but it may alter the wider trajectory of oil prices to point higher once again. It remains to be seen whether the Energy Minister will remain as concerned about market volatility if prices rise above $100.

By ChAI Predict

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