As consumer lending softens, business lending has picked up, but it has been more than 10 years since Canadian companies last outpaced households in their demand for credit.
That's what the charts are showing now. Business credit is up by 7.8 per cent year over year, Bank of Montreal chief economist Douglas Porter notes in a report this morning. In comparison, household credit has grown just 4.9 per cent year over year.
"While Canadian household borrowing continues to gradually fade (though it's still running faster than income), business borrowing is headed in the opposite direction," Mr. Porter said.
It's a trend that the big banks expressed some concern about in their most recent earnings quarter. "With Canadian households de-leveraging, consumer lending growth is slowing across the industry," Toronto-Dominion Bank chief executive Ed Clark said on an earnings call. "Business lending growth remains strong, but this provides only a partial offset."
Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce said in a statement during the earnings period that it expects this demand for business credit to continue to grow at a healthy rate.
But Mr. Porter said that there's a slightly negative undertone to the data. Business lending us up because profit growth of Canadian businesses has lagged a little in the last year.
Still, it's not all bad news. "Businesses have tried to take advantage of a strong Canadian dollar and the U.S. recovery to invest," he said.
Changes in business credit reflect net new financing obtained by non-financial firms from a broad ranges of sources, according to the Bank of Canada and Haver Analytics, which Mr. Porter used in his research. About two-thirds of credit outstanding to households is for residential mortgages.
But while the distribution of credit is shifting, the scale remains relatively stable. Canada's credit growth on the whole is still just under 6 per cent, Mr. Porter said.
(Jacqueline Nelson is a Globe and Mail Financial Services Reporter.)
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