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.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Royal BC Museum joins home education trend with outreach programs

Free webinar options available for RBCM@Home and kids’ programs, starting March 31

Victoria councillors propose waiving parkade fees to support essential workers

Motion coming to committee of the whole for consideration

Woman comes home to ‘entirely different’ Victoria after cruise ship, military base quarantine

Melanie Sibbitt booked herself a last-minute vacation on a cruise ship hit by COVID-19

Victoria brewery uses 3D-printer to make face shields for health care workers

Phillips Brewing is teaming up with engineers to create single-use medical equipment

B.C. records first at-home death from COVID-19, but 70+ hospital patients have recovered

Total of 970 novel coronavirus cases in B.C., with the majority in the Lower Mainland area

BC Ferries able to restrict travel for sick passengers

Ferries working on schedule shifts to keep workers safe

Canadian ferry operators call for inclusion in COVID-19 travel restrictions

Domestic travel restrictions should include ferries, operators say

COVID-19: A message from the publisher

We will be making some changes to our print editions during these unprecedented times

Pay parking suspended at B.C. hospitals due to COVID-19

Temporary free parking reduces need for keypads, contact

Canada expands 75% wage subsidy to COVID-19 affected businesses of all sizes: Trudeau

Program will provide up to $847 per week for each worker

Helping those at risk, one piece of paper at a time through ‘isolation communication’

Simple paper tool during pandemic making its way across Canada thanks to social media.

‘Back to school, in a virtual way’ for B.C. students in COVID-19 pandemic

Province adds online resources to help parents at home

Most Read