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OTTAWA (Reuters) - Canadians took on more consumer debt in the third quarter, and the delinquency rate rose, a major credit report provider said on Thursday in a report that was likely to increase policymaker's concerns about household borrowing levels.
Non-mortgage debt balances averaged C$21,686 ($16,084) in the quarter, up 2.3 percent from a year earlier, TransUnion's report showed.
TransUnion forecast that debt levels would rise to C$21,747 by the end of next year and could hit C$22,000 by the end of 2018.
Outstanding debt increased among most types of loans, including credit cards and installment plans, the report said.
The Canadian government's recent downgrade of its economic outlook may have led some consumers to believe interest rates will remain low for a long time, and could prompt them to borrow more, said Jason Wang, TransUnion's director of research and analysis in Canada.
"It's especially important for lenders to continue monitoring and stress-testing their portfolios to ensure they can maintain stable performance when interest rates do eventually rise," Wang said.
The Canadian economy, which is heavily dependent on the energy sector, has struggled to gain sustainable momentum since it was hit by a drop in oil prices last year.
Earlier this month, the government cut its economic projections for the next several years.
Years of low interest rates since the global financial crisis have led to an increase in consumer borrowing in Canada and fueled the hot housing market.
Household debt as a share of income was at a record high in the second quarter, and the Bank of Canada has flagged such imbalances as a potential vulnerability for the financial system.
While the TransUnion report showed the delinquency rate edged up from a year ago, it was still at a modest 2.70 percent in the third quarter, up from 2.62 percent a year earlier.
That suggests Canadians have largely been able to manage their debt so far, said Wang.
The biggest increases were in the provinces of Alberta and Saskatchewan, which have suffered from the downturn in commodity prices. The amount of loans that were 90 days or more past due stood at 3.13 percent in Alberta and 3.46 percent in Saskatchewan.
Reporting by Leah Schnurr; Editing by Lisa Von Ahn