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Canada revisions show household debt much bigger than thought

OTTAWA (Reuters) – Canadian household debt is way higher than previously thought relative to income, Statistics Canada‘s historical revisions showed on Monday, heightening pressure on policy makers to handle what they’ve called the largest domestic danger to the economy.

And the speed was still rising to a brand new record within the second quarter — before the tightening of mortgage insurance rules. The household debt-to-income ratio jumped to 163.4 percent within the second quarter from 161.8 percent within the first quarter, in response to revisions made to bring the agency’s methodology in step with updated international standards.

Under the old method, Statscan had reported the primary quarter household debt-to-income ratio of 152.0 percent. The revisions show the ratio in 2011 was 161.7 percent rather then 150.6 percent as previously estimated.

The figure is a key measure of the vulnerability of indebted Canadians to a sudden lack of income or sudden downturn within the housing market. A Statistics Canada analyst said the Canadian ratio was well above that of the usa.

The most reasons for the revisions were that the brand new methodology ended in an improved calculation of household credit market debt and lower disposable income. Statscan also removed non-profit institutions serving households from the household sector when making its estimates.

The soaring debt levels, fueled partially by a hot housing market, have led Bank of Canada Governor Mark Carney and Finance Minister Jim Flaherty to warn Canadians repeatedly against getting too deep into debt at a time of ultra-low rates.

The International Monetary Fund last week singled out the country’s housing boom and household debt levels as factors to look at.

(Reporting by Louise Egan; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama)