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TORONTO (Reuters) - Canadians became more anxious about their personal finances in March -- enough to lose sleep over the issue -- but felt a little more confident about jobs, a consumer confidence survey found on Thursday.
The RBC Canadian Consumer Outlook Index dipped to 108 points in March from 109 in February, signaling that overall sentiment has barely budged.
The index has been edging up and down since its launch in December, reflecting opinions that the country's economic recovery will be a bumpy one.
"There are risks to the outlook that Canadians are still a bit worried about," said Craig Wright, chief economist at Royal Bank of Canada. He cited weakness in the U.S. economy, the impact of a stronger Canadian dollar, and concerns about global exit strategies from extraordinary stimulus measures used to combat the credit crunch.
Sentiment on the overall economy remained in positive territory, with 54 percent of respondents describing it as good and 46 percent describing it as bad.
However a higher number of respondents expect the economy to worsen over the next 12 months: 20 percent in the latest survey compared with 13 percent in February.
Canadians were slightly less fretful about the job outlook, with 22 percent saying a member of their household is worried about being laid off, down from 25 percent the month before.
On overall personal finances, 33 percent think their situation will improve in the next three months, up from 30 percent in February.
But the survey also found 65 percent are losing sleep over finances.
It found 27 percent of respondents are concerned about paying off debts, followed by 18 percent who are worried about having enough for retirement, while 16 percent fret about having no emergency fund.
The survey also revealed that 34 percent were not confident about any aspect of their financial situation.
More than two-thirds of Canadians, or 69 percent, expect interest rates will rise in the next six months, up from 65 percent in February and roughly in line with market expectations.
The Bank of Canada has pledged to keep interest rates at record lows until the end of the second quarter, assuming inflation remains tame.
Recently, there has been talk that interest rates could be lifted sooner because of a string of very firm economic numbers, though yields on overnight index swaps suggest the market sees the tightening cycle starting on July 20.
"Bay Street is interpreting the data and upwardly revising their growth forecasts, and Main Street is telling us to be a bit more cautious," said Wright.
The RBC index is based on an online survey of 1,020 Canadians, ages 18 and over. It was conducted by Ipsos Reid between March 9 and 15, 2010.
Reporting by Ka Yan Ng; editing by Rob Wilson