Annual inflation cools to 2.2%; core measure above 2% for first time in 6 years

The country's annual inflation rate cooled slightly last month _ but at 2.2 per cent, it stayed hot enough to hover above the two per cent midpoint of the Bank of Canada's ideal range,

Statistics Canada's inflation reading for April came in a little lower than the March number of 2.3 per cent _ which had brought the rate to its highest mark since 2014 _ and matched the 2.2 per cent figure for February.

The upward pressure on inflation last month was led by higher costs for gasoline, air transportation and restaurants, while the biggest downward forces came from cheaper prices for digital equipment, travel tours and natural gas.

The report also says the average of the Bank of Canada's three measures of core inflation, which omit more-volatile numbers like pump prices, crept slightly above the two per cent mark last month for the first time since February 2012.

The central bank closely monitors inflation ahead of its interest-rate decisions and it can use rate hikes as a tool to help prevent inflation from climbing too high.

But the recent readings just above the central bank's ideal inflation bull's-eye are unlikely to have a major impact on upcoming rate decisions because governor Stephen Poloz has predicted inflation will remain above two per cent for all of 2018.

In a separate report, Statistics Canada released its latest figures for retail trade, which showed an increase for a third straight month as sales rose 0.6 per cent in March.