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Consumers feel gas, food pinch: RBC

Nearly half of all Canadians say higher gasoline and food prices have crimped their household finances, according to a new survey released Tuesday.

Nearly half of all Canadians say higher gasoline and food prices have crimped their household finances, according to a new survey released Tuesday.

Canadian consumers are feeling more positive about the economy in the past three months. ((Mike Cassese/Reuters))

The Royal Bank of Canada noted 45 per cent of Canadian men and women said spiking pump prices and soaring food costs are "significantly impacting" their budgets.

The findings were contained in RBC's quarterly survey of consumer attitudes, in this case, for the January-to-March period.

The higher level of concern regarding price increases represented a jump compared with the 38 per cent of Canadians with similar worries in the previous three-month period.

In the past 12 months, food prices have risen 37 per cent, according to the United Nation's Food and Agriculture Organization.

Similarly, Statistics Canada estimated that gasoline prices were up 16 per cent in February 2011 versus the same month a year earlier and are up 64 per cent compared to 2002.

Despite rising prices, however, more Canadians believe the national economy is improving compared with deteriorating, 42 per cent versus 26 per cent.

And more consumers say their own personal financial situation should improve in the next 12 months (39 per cent) compared with those who think their financial fortunes will sink in the next year (22 per cent).

Optimism reigns

Overall, the RBC consumer index posted a mild increase in the latest quarter at 96 per cent, up three percentage points over the previous three-month period.

That means Canadians generally have a more positive view of the economy, their personal financial situation and whether they will be buying more goods and services in the upcoming year.

"This is a good news story," said Kathy Bevan, an RBC spokesperson.

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