Canadian household debt levels rise to $1.82 trillion: RBC
A customer pays with a credit card. (The Canadian Press/Ryan Remiorz)
Published Wednesday, June 3, 2015 11:37AM EDT
Last Updated Wednesday, June 3, 2015 12:24PM EDT
Canadian households have reached record levels of debt, expanding their debt balances by $81 billion from a year ago in April to $1.82 trillion.
The new debt level marks a 4.6 per cent increase from April 2014, according to a new report from RBC.
RBC Economist Laura Cooper said there appears to be little abatement in Canadians' appetite for credit.
"A reluctance to spend, as evident in softer consumer expenditures in Q1/15, has done little to curb demand for credit with the annual increase in April matching the pace of growth reported in each of the past three months," she said in the report.
The report found that consumer credit accumulation increased year-over-year by 3 per cent from April 2014.
"A bump in outstanding credit card balances in the month accompanied ongoing accumulation on personal lines of credit to boost overall non-mortgage loans by $15 billion from a year ago to $532 billion," the report said.
However, the "robust" housing activity in recent months did not spur an increase in mortgage loans in April, Cooper said.
"Growth in this component remained unchanged at 5.3 per cent for the third consecutive month," the report said.
Cooper told CTVNews.ca that low interest rates are part of the reason driving the record debt levels.
"The low-interest rate environment is really helping Canadians to sustain the servicing of these elevated debt levels," she said, noting that the amount of income Canadians pay toward interest payments is at a record low.
She said that despite the upward trend in debt accumulation, the rate of growth is still well below the double-digit increases seen in the mid-2000s.
And while many households would be vulnerable if interest rates were to suddenly spike or the Canadian job market were to suffer a large number of job losses, the bank does not foresee these risks materializing, Cooper said.
A StatsCan report released earlier this year found that Canadian households in the fourth-quarter of 2014 owed about $1.63 for every dollar of disposable income.
However, that report also noted that the value of Canadians' assets also grew as debt levels increased.