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Canadian household net worth climbs to $6.0 trillion in the first quarter … says RBC

Royal LePage JOHNSTON & DANIEL Div. BrokerageThe Canadian housing market continued to show strength in the first quarter of 2010 Real Estate Holdings make up 85.5% of all Canadian non-financial assets. (Up 24.9 Billion vs previous quarter)

Canadian household net worth increased by 1.3% ($74 billion) in the first quarter of 2010 to $6.0 trillion, which marks the fourth consecutive quarterly improvement in household net worth and reflects a 96% recovery off of the net worth lost during the recent economic downturn.

Increases in both financial and non-financial assets drove the improvement in household balance sheets. Canadian stock markets continued the positive trend that started in the second quarter of 2009 with the S&P/TSX composite index up a modest 2.5% in the first quarter of 2010, pushing the value of household financial assets (which include equities, mutual funds and pension assets) up by 1.8% ($71.3 billion).

Household liabilities grew 1.5% ($21.7 billion) in first quarter to $1.4 trillion, led by a $16.4 billion increase in mortgage debt reflecting the continued strength in the real estate market. Consumer credit growth eased to $3.9 billion (from $8.3 billion in the previous quarter) reflecting a slowdown in demand for durable goods. The growth in liabilities matched the growth in net worth, keeping the household debt-to-net worth ratio at 24.4% for the third consecutive quarter, slightly below the all-time high of 24.9% seen in the first quarter of 2009. The household debt-to-personal disposable income ratio edged up to a new record of 148.9% from 147.0% in the final quarter of 2009. (Credit market debt, which includes only consumer credit and mortgages, edged up to 22.2% of household net worth from 22.1% in the previous quarter and up to 135.7% of personal disposable income from 133.7%.)

The increase of household net worth continues to help repair the cumulative $552 billion decline that resulted from the economic downturn, and balances now stand at 96% of their pre-recession levels. Low interest rates have encouraged the expansion of household borrowings that has led to strengthening in demand and asset prices, particularly in housing. The strength of the recovery during the first quarter of 2010, along with firmer than expected core inflation, led the Bank of Canada to begin its gradual removal of its stimulative monetary policy and raise the overnight rate 25 basis points to 0.50% earlier this month. Because economic activity is expected to continue to improve, the Bank will likely continue to withdraw monetary stimulus, although we expect the pace of tightening to remain moderate with the policy rate expected to finish 2010 at a still stimulative 1.50%.

David Onyett-Jeffries, Economist, RBC Economics

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