Lam | June 20, 2011

So the latest household accounts data released Monday surprised exactly no one showing Canadian debt-to-income ratios at a new record high of 147.3% in the first quarter of 2011, but here are a few good things (and one not so good) to take away from the Statistics Canada report.

Canadians are slowing down their borrowing

Growth in the most common consumer credit lines, including credit cards and personal lines of credit, is up 5.2% year-over-year, the slowest since 1995. Mortgage credit is also advancing at its slowest pace since 2004, up 7.4% compared with a year ago.

Canadians are worth more than they’ve ever been before

Household net worth rose 1% to $6.3-trillion during the quarter, a new record high, and is up 6.1% on an annual basis. Per capita net worth is up 0.7% to $184,700 compared with the prior quarter.

Assets are up too

Overall household financial assets, including equities, bonds and pensions, rose 1.8% or $77-billion thanks in part to a 5% jump in the S&P/TSX Composite. Non-financial assets, made up primarily by real estate, grew 4.9%.

Corporate debt is improving

Both financial and non-financial corporations issued much less debt in the first quarter of 2011 compared with the prior quarter, to the tune of $5-billion each. This compares with $24-billion and $19-billion respectively in the fourth quarter of 2010.

But … net worth growth is slowing

With net worth growing about 6% annually so far, this is three percentage points slower than the average 9.7% annual rate in the four years between 2004 and 2007. “The level of debt has become a constraint to net worth growth,” Diana Petramala, economist with TD Economics, said in a note. “Furthermore, households must devote more of their income to paying off their debt, leaving less room for saving and consumption.”