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Credit cards are displayed in Montreal on Dec. 12, 2012. (Ryan Remiorz/THE CANADIAN PRESS)
Credit cards are displayed in Montreal on Dec. 12, 2012. (Ryan Remiorz/THE CANADIAN PRESS)

Canadians' appetite for debt sees sharp jump in second quarter: report Add to ...

After ebbing in the first three months of 2013, Canadians’ penchant for debt returned in the second quarter and will likely continue to rise for the rest of the year, according to a credit bureau report.

The average consumer’s total debt in the second quarter rose almost $200 to $27,131, or 0.73 per cent, from the previous quarter, says the latest analysis of credit trends by TransUnion, released Wednesday.

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On a year-over-year basis, total debt in the second quarter increased 3.47 per cent, a surprisingly big jump, said TransUnion.

The latest data indicate that the 2-per-cent pullback in the first quarter may have been a “one-time event,” the firm said in a press release.

“After the unexpected first-quarter decrease in consumer debt, the variable climbed back up in the second quarter with a larger-than-normal rise. This points to Canadian consumers’ continued appetite for credit as an instrument to make purchases,” said TransUnion vice-president of analytics and decision services Thomas Higgins.

“TransUnion forecasts total debt to continue to grow through the remainder of the year, likely eclipsing the record high set in [the fourth quarter of] 2012.”

At the same time, delinquency levels remain low and that’s a key factor, Mr. Higgins said.

“This is particularly important to note for lenders as despite more consumers gaining access to credit in recent years, delinquencies have not risen in a material way, meaning consumers, for now, are able to effectively manage their increased debt load,” he said.

Credit card delinquencies in the second quarter of this year were at 0.24 per cent, lines-of-credit delinquencies at 0.17 per cent, instalment-loan delinquencies at 1.14 per cent and auto-loan delinquencies at 0.10 per cent.

Policy makers have been warning Canadians regarding piling on too much debt, which could become problematic as interest rates rise.

The increase in average individual total debt in the latest reported quarter was Canada-wide, with a spread ranging from a low of 1.84 per cent in Ontario to 7.70 per cent in Alberta, TransUnion says.

Consumer debt rose in all product categories.

Credit card borrower debt posted a 0.80-per-cent increase from the year-earlier period, lines of credit (LOC) debt was up 2.73 per cent, instalment-loan debt rose 5.52 per cent and auto debt increased 3.38 per.

“While there was an increase in debt for credit cards, instalment loans and auto loans, there was a second straight quarterly decline in lines of credit, which is important to note because it is by far the largest credit segment,” Mr. Higgins said.

“Lines of credit have grown in the last few years, but the extent of the growth is much smaller than what we’ve observed with both auto and instalment loans.”

Burlington, Ont.-based TransUnion’s market trends analysis is based on a sampling of anonymous credit files.

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