Canada's annual inflation rate eased more than expected in December as gas prices came down but core measures remained little changed from the previous month, Statistics Canada said on Tuesday, making another interest rate hike this month likely, Reuters reported. Inflation slowed to 6.3% in December from 6.8% in November, a notch lower than the 6.4% median forecast of analysts. Prices fell 0.6% from the previous month, again showing price pressures easing more than analysts' forecast for a 0.5% decline. Consumers paid 13.1% less at the pump in December compared with November, the largest monthly decline in almost three years, Statscan said. The average of two of the central bank's core measures of underlying inflation, CPI-median and CPI-trim, came in at 5.2% compared with 5.3% in November. Excluding food and energy, prices rose 5.3% in December versus 5.4% in November. "The fact that the core metrics are stable does speak to this idea that there's still an economy in excess demand, that underlying inflationary pressures are pervasive," said Andrew Kelvin, chief Canada strategist at TD Securities. "With that in mind, I think it argues for the Bank of Canada lifting rates later this month, rather than arguing for them to stay on hold," Kelvin said, adding that he sees a 25-basis-point increase and then a likely pause by the central bank. December's headline figure is still more than three times the Bank of Canada's 2% target. Most analysts agreed the Bank of Canada would hike rates by a quarter of a percentage point on Jan. 25, when it next meets. Read more.