Household debt-to-income ratio edges down in the first 3 months of 2019

Canada's household debt-to-income ratio edged lower during the first three months of 2019, although it remained near record highs. Ryan Remiorz/CP

Canadian household debt as a share of income, a measure closely watched by policy makers, slipped to 173 per cent in the first quarter from 173.7 per cent in the fourth quarter but is still near record levels, Statistics Canada said on Thursday.

StatsCan revised the fourth quarter down from an initial 174 per cent. The all-time high is the 173.8 per cent recorded in the third quarter of 2017.

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The Bank of Canada is particularly concerned about the levels of household debt and whether Canadians will be able to cope when interest rates increase.

On a seasonally adjusted basis, households borrowed $20.2 billion in the first quarter, down from $20.6 billion in the preceding quarter. Mortgage borrowing rose to $13.2 billion from $12.3 billion.

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The debt service ratio, which measures debt principal and interest payments as a proportion of income, edged up to 14.9 per cent — the highest since the fourth quarter of 2007.

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