UPDATE 2-Canada household debt burden remains at record high

Fri Mar 15, 2013 9:15am EDT
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* Debt-to-income ratio 165.0 pct in Q4 vs 164.7 pct in Q3

* Increase much smaller than in previous quarters

* Data shows housing, borrowing starting to cool

OTTAWA, March 15 (Reuters) - Canadian households increased their debt load for the third consecutive quarter, keeping the debt-to-income ratio at an all-time high of 165.0 percent, although it rose much less than the previous quarters, according to Statistics Canada data on Friday.

Soaring personal debt has been a top concern of Canadian policymakers as consumers take out mortgages at ultra-low rates to buy homes in a heated real estate market.

The Bank of Canada in January predicted the trend growth in household credit would moderate and the debt-to-income ratio would stabilize at around current levels.

The debt-to-income ratio rose 0.3 percentage points in the fourth quarter from 164.7 percent in the third, much smaller than 1.5 and 1.6 point increases in the previous two quarters.

Statscan said household debt and income rose at roughly the same rate in the fourth quarter.   Continued...