Household debt loads inch higher: StatsCan

The total amount of debt that Canadians hold in relation to their incomes continued to inch higher in the first quarter, Statistics Canada data revealed Monday.

Net worth also higher

On a per capita basis, household net worth was $184,700 in the first quarter. That compares with $183,300 in the previous quarter. (Mark Blinch/Reuters)

The total amount of debt that Canadians hold in relation to their incomes continued to inch higher in the first quarter, Statistics Canada data revealed Monday.

The debt-to-income level ticked almost a full percentage point higher to 147.3 per cent in the January to March period, the agency said. The figure is a measure of total debt load — including mortgage and consumer debt — versus disposable income.

The figure has been trending higher since the third quarter of 2010, even as policymakers such as Bank of Canada Governor Mark Carney and Finance Minister Jim Flaherty urge Canadians to firm up their finances ahead of rising interest rates.

A decline in durable goods spending pushed consumer credit lower, but stable borrowing costs as well as higher housing resale and renovation activities pushed mortgage debt higher, the agency said.

Home owners' equity as a percentage of real estate assets fell marginally, continuing a trend that started last year.

The debt loads of Canadians increased in the first quarter, but at the same time, their net worth also went up. Household net worth increased by one per cent to $6.3 trillion. That comes on the heels of a 2.4 per cent increase in the previous quarter.

On a per capita basis, household net worth was $184,700 in the first quarter. That compares with $183,300 in the previous quarter.

Strong gains in the housing market explains much of the increase, but financial assets also appreciated. The benchmark S&P/TSX Composite Index gained 5.1 per cent during the quarter.