Debt-to-household-income ratio rises in third quarter

Total household credit market debt grew to $2.11 trillion in the third quarter

Sky-high debt loads are one of the central bank governor’s top concerns after the amount Canadians owe relative to their income hit a new high in the third quarter, newly released data shows.

Statistics Canada reported that household credit market debt as a proportion of household disposable income increased to 171.1 per cent, up from 170.1 per cent in the second quarter. That means there was $1.71 in credit market debt, which includes consumer credit and mortgage and non-mortgage loans, for every dollar of household disposable income.

Bank of Canada governor Stephen Poloz said in a speech in Toronto that high debt levels are one of the things that keeps him awake at night because they make the economy as a whole more sensitive to higher interest rates than in the past.

“These vulnerabilities are elevated, and are likely to remain so for a long time,” he said.

“Remember, it took years for these vulnerabilities to build up in the first place.”

The central bank has raised interest rates twice this year due to the strong economy. Since the second increase in September, it has held the rate steady signalling it will proceed with caution.

Benjamin Reitzes, Canadian rates and macro strategist at the Bank of Montreal, said the upward trend in household debt continues unabated.

“And, with homebuyers rushing to get into the market ahead of the new OSFI rule change that takes effect on Jan. 1, 2018, we could see a further increase in Q4,” Reitzes wrote in a report.

“However, that suggests we could see some flattening out of the ratio in 2018 — though don’t bet on it as housing has been persistently resilient.”

Household debt is often cited as a key risk to the Canadian economy by the Bank of Canada and others.

In a report last month, the OECD said high house prices and associated debt levels remain a substantial financial vulnerability in Canada.

“A disorderly correction would adversely impact growth and could threaten financial stability,” the organization said.

Statistics Canada said the household debt service ratio, measured as total obligated payments of principal and interest as a proportion of household disposable income, was relatively flat at 13.9 per cent, while the interest-only debt service ratio was 6.3 per cent, down from 6.4 per cent in the previous quarter.

The Bank of Canada has raised its key interest rate target twice this year, moves that have led to increases in the prime rates at the country’s big banks used to set loans like variable-rate mortgages.

Royal Bank economist Josh Nye noted the debt service ratio will increase as the Bank of Canada continues to gradually raise interest rates.

“However, the prevalence of fixed rate mortgage debt means households won’t feel the increase all at once,” Nye wrote.

“Rather, as today’s data showed, the debt service ratio is likely to rise only gradually.”

Total household credit market debt grew to $2.11 trillion in the third quarter, up 1.4 per cent from the previous quarter. The increase came as mortgage debt increased 1.5 per cent to $1.38 trillion, while consumer credit rose 1.2 per cent to $620.7 billion.

Meanwhile, the total net worth of the household sector edged down 0.1 per cent to $10.61 trillion in the third quarter.

The move lower was due to a drop in home values as housing resale prices weakened. The value of household financial assets edged up 0.1 per cent.

Craig Wong, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Island Health: No need for alarm in wake of Victoria needle-prick incidents

Three incidents in a week prompts meeting between health authority, city service providers

Crash on Highway 10 in Surrey

DriveBC reports the crash happened eastbound, and that the left lane on highway is blocked

RCMP appeal for information following reported sexual assault in South Surrey

Woman alleges she was groped in the 15300-block of 21 Avenue

Delta police recover body near Ladner Harbour Park

Police can’t say if the death is considered suspicious

Former PM Kim Campbell to speak in Surrey

Campbell is keynote speaker at Surrey Board of Trade luncheon on March 8

VIDEO: Orcas put on a show near Hornby Island

Louis Jobodin shares photos and video of his experience

B.C. coast loggers celebrate history, hope for improvement

Truck Loggers Association awaits B.C. NDP government’s new direction

Whistler role in potential Calgary Olympic bid would be welcome: IOC

Calgary is mulling whether to vie for the 2026 Games, and could look to facilities in B.C.

Food industry failing at voluntary sodium reduction: Health Canada

Health Canada report shows the food industry made no meaningful progress in curtailing salt levels

‘Mud Bay’ keeps on rocking the blues

Fraser Valley musicians celebrate 40 years of rocking good songs together

Best B.C. cities to live in: millennial edition

Other local municipalities score at bottom of list from real estate blog

Solitary confinement in Canadian prisons unconstitutional: B.C. Supreme Court

Associations argued that solitary confinement was inhuman

Girl, 15, killed in Burnaby crash

RCMP say female pedestrian was struck on Cariboo Road

1 in 4 B.C. consumers unable to pay bills, debt repayment: poll

Since interest rates first rose in July, poll suggests households across B.C. have had to tighten budget

Most Read