A quarterly analysis of credit trends in Canada found that the average total debt for consumers ticked up in the second quarter ended June 30 to $25,603, a $6 increase from the first quarter total, which had marked the first decrease in nearly seven years. The total does not include mortgage debt.

The newfound stability comes after 26 consecutive quarterly increases between Q2 2004 and Q4 2010, according to the analysis provided by TransUnion.

"After six plus years of accruing larger credit balances, Canadians appear to be making a concerted effort to stabilize their debt load," says Thomas Higgins, TransUnion's vice president of analytics and decision services. "Though two quarters do not make a trend, the uncertain economy coupled with more conservative approaches to consumer credit use, could possibly make this a new development that takes shape in the short term."

While total consumer debt for the first six months of this year is lower than its peak in Q4 2010, it remains 3% higher versus last year ($24,861 compared to $25,603).

Other key statistics include:

Average credit card borrower debt (the aggregate balance on all credit cards for an individual borrower) declined 0.67% year-to-year and posted a seasonal increase of 1.4% quarter-to-quarter.

Canadian lines of credit borrower debt (the aggregate balance on all lines of credit for an individual borrower) increased 5.4% year-to-year and 2.8% quarter-to-quarter.

Canadian installment loan borrower debt (the aggregate balance on all installment loans for an individual installment loan borrower) decreased 1.0% year-to-year and 0.6% quarter-to-quarter.

Canadian auto borrower debt (the aggregate balance on all auto captive loans for an individual auto captive borrower) increased more than 10% year-to-year and 3.0% quarter-to-quarter.

"On the debt front, it appears that the slowdown cuts across multiple product categories, excluding the auto sector and lines of credit," adds Higgins. "The recent warnings of interest rate hikes may have started to have an impact, but it may be short lived with the growing economic uncertainty and shelving of interest rate moves by the Bank of Canada."
The hint at consumer debt stabilization comes as the total active credit population in Canada declined between the first and second quarters of this year. It now stands at 24.9 million consumers, an estimated 230,000 fewer than the first quarter. 

Delinquency levels also fell across all credit products on a yearly basis.

"Canadians appear to have a handle on their delinquency levels as compared to just a few years ago," says Higgins. "Delinquencies have been on a consistent downward trend for two years now, but seem to be settling in."
TransUnion culled the information for the report from anonymous credit files. Each Canadian consumer record contains hundreds of credit variables that illustrate consumer credit usage and performance. 

Subscribe Now

Access to authoritative analysis and perspective and our data-driven report series.

14-Day Free Trial

No credit card required. Complete access to articles, breaking news and industry data.