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A TransUnion study suggests Canadian debt loads grew at an average 4.5 per cent in the first quarter compared to a year-earlier, signalling appetite for debt is undiminished.

The credit bureau's analysis found that total debt per consumer, excluding mortgages, grew to $25,597 in the first quarter of 2011, up from $24,497 in the same quarter of 2010.

Increases were biggest in Quebec and Newfoundland & Labrador, with debt rising by 7.8 per cent in both provinces.

Consumer spending slowed during the first quarter, to just 0.1 per cent growth, leading some observers to believe they were focused on consolidating debt after borrowing heavily during the recession.

Consumers average credit card debt fell four per cent from the fourth quarter, when Canadian spending ramped up for the holiday shopping period. It was about the same compared to the first quarter of last year.

The analysis is based on anonymous credit files of all credit-active Canadians.