National balance sheet accounts

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Fourth quarter 2010 (Previous release)

National net worth edged up 0.3% to $6.3 trillion in the fourth quarter, the slowest quarterly growth of the year. Growth in non-financial assets, mainly in residential structures, was largely offset by an increase in net foreign debt. On a per capita basis, national net worth grew to $184,200 in the fourth quarter, up from $183,900 in the previous quarter.

National net worth grows at a slower pace

The advance in national wealth was largely offset by a further increase in Canada's net foreign debt. This largely reflects continued foreign investment in Canadian debt securities, mainly government and corporate bonds in the fourth quarter. This was in line with Canada's ongoing current account deficit as well as the impact of a stronger Canadian dollar on foreign currency denominated international assets.

Note to readers

The National balance sheet accounts (NBSA) comprise the balance sheets of all sectors of the economy: the persons and unincorporated business (households), corporate, government, and non-resident sectors. They cover all national non-financial assets and financial claims and their associated liabilities outstanding in all sectors.

National net worth is national wealth less net foreign liabilities (that is, what is owed to non-residents less what non-residents owe to Canadians). Alternatively, it is the sum of the net worth of the persons and unincorporated business, corporate, and government sectors.

Household credit market debt comprises consumer credit, mortgage, and loan debt of households, non-profit institutions serving households, and unincorporated businesses.

Corporate equity is treated as a liability on the balance sheet of the corporate sector since it represents a claim by shareholders on the corporate sector. As a result, as equity prices increase, corporate net worth will tend to decline, reflecting the increase in the corporate sector's equity liabilities.

As of the release of the NBSA for the third quarter of 2009, a number of sectors and categories that were previously published have been combined, in order to provide more relevant sector and category information.

Quarterly series, at both book and market value, are available from the first quarter of 1990. Annual market value data are published from 1970, while book value estimates remain available from 1961. Marketable securities are at market value, unless otherwise stated. For more information on the market value estimates, consult the National Balance Sheet estimates at market value page of our website.

Household net worth continues to rise

Household net worth rose 2.2% to $6.2 trillion in the fourth quarter, following a 3.0% increase in the third quarter. Household per capita net worth increased from $178,200 in the third quarter to $181,700 in the fourth quarter.

The gain in the Standard and Poor's / Toronto Stock Exchange composite index of about 9% in the fourth quarter was reflected in rising values of household equities (including mutual funds) and pension assets, albeit at a slower pace than the previous quarter. Equity holdings of the household sector increased by $129 billion in 2010 while they increased by $194 billion in 2009, after a $306 billion drop in 2008.

Household net worth up again

Household mortgage debt and consumer credit debt advanced in the fourth quarter, the latter reflecting increased purchases of durable goods. The ratio of household credit market debt to personal disposable income edged down to 146.8%, as a 1.8% gain in personal disposable income outstripped that of the credit market debt.

While the Bank of Canada overnight rate remained unchanged in the fourth quarter, the five-year fixed mortgage rate declined. The debt service ratio edged down in the fourth quarter, reflecting lower borrowing costs as well as increased personal disposable income. This ratio has continued to trend down since the third quarter of 2008.

Debt service ratio lowered

Home owners equity as a percentage of real estate assets fell marginally, continuing the trend set in 2010. However, the broader measure of household credit market debt to net worth edged down to 24.2%. This marked the second consecutive quarterly decline in this aggregate, reflecting the impact of improvements in equity markets on net worth over the past two quarters.

Household credit market debt to net worth down slightly

Government net debt rose

The government net debt (expressed at book value) increased by $19 billion in the fourth quarter and the ratio of net debt to gross domestic product stood at 45.1%, continuing its upward trend since the third quarter of 2008 when it stood at 35.4%.

The federal government continued to borrow through both treasury bills and bonds, while provincial governments increased debt largely through short-term paper financing.

Corporate debt to equity edges up

The increase in corporate debt was largely in new issues of bonds, with a considerable portion of these securities purchased by non-residents. However, the revaluation effect of a rising Canadian dollar on outstanding foreign currency denominated Canadian liabilities moderated the increase in bond debt outstanding in the quarter.

Increases in debt marginally exceeded equity issues and undistributed earnings, resulting in the credit market debt-to-equity ratio (expressed at book value) to edge up to 55.2% in the fourth quarter.

Corporate debt to equity edges up

Equity investment of financial corporations increased

Consistent with the market gains over the fourth quarter, the value of investments in marketable securities, notably shares, of institutional investors, such as trusteed pension plans and mutual funds, increased markedly. Holdings of foreign investments by financial institutions increased strongly as well, while their increases in holdings of bonds and short-term paper were modest. Canadian currency and deposits liabilities of financial institutions were relatively unchanged in the fourth quarter.

Available on CANSIM: tables 378-0012 to 378-0014 and 378-0049 to 378-0116.

Definitions, data sources and methods: survey number 1806.

The National economic accounts module, accessible from the Key resource module of our website, features an up-to-date portrait of national and provincial economies and their structure.

The fourth quarter 2010 National Balance Sheet Accounts: Data Tables, Vol. 3, no. 4 (13-022-X, free), is now available from the Key resource module of our website under Publications.

Additional tables and links to other releases from the national accounts can be found in the fourth quarter 2010 issue of Canadian Economic Accounts Quarterly Review, Vol. 9, no. 4 (13-010-X, free). This publication is now available from the Key resource module of our website under Publications. This publication will be updated on March 15, at the time of the labour productivity, hourly compensation and unit labour cost release. Revised estimates of the National balance sheet accounts for the first, second and third quarters of 2010 are released, along with those for the fourth quarter of 2010.

Data for the first quarter of 2011 will be released on June 20.

For more information, or to enquire about the concepts, methods or data quality of this release, contact the information officer (613-951-3640;, Income and Expenditure Accounts Division.