CORRECTED-UPDATE 2-Canada household debt/income ratio continues to edge lower

Thu Jun 19, 2014 3:59pm EDT
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(Corrects figure in 11th paragraph to C$550 billion from C$550 million)

* Ratio 163.2 pct in Q1 and 163.9 pct in Q4

* Ratio hit a record 164.1 pct in Q3; rose through recession

* Officials see soft landing for housing and household debt

By Randall Palmer

OTTAWA, June 19 (Reuters) - The ratio of Canadian household debt to income edged down further in the first quarter from the record high it hit last year, buttressing policymakers' expectations that a soft landing is in store for the housing market and family indebtedness.

Statistics Canada reported on Thursday a ratio of 163.2 percent in the first quarter. The ratio reached a record high of 164.1 percent in the third quarter of last year, and dipped to 163.9 percent in the fourth quarter.

In relative terms, the decline in the first quarter was tiny for a measure that jumped from 108.5 percent in early 2000 to 129.2 percent in 2006, and then rose inexorably in the following years as Canada avoided the real estate crash that afflicted the United States.

Finance Minister Joe Oliver and Bank of Canada Governor Stephen Poloz have been watching the housing market and household debt levels for signs that consumers are being overstretched but they have been relatively sanguine about recent trends.   Continued...