National balance sheet accounts, first quarter 2012

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National net worth increased 2.0% to $6.7 trillion in the first quarter, the largest quarterly growth rate since the third quarter of 2008. On a per capita basis, national net worth expanded to $193,500 in the first quarter from $190,200 in the previous quarter.

The advance in national net worth was driven by higher asset values, as national wealth increased 1.5% to $6.9 trillion, while net foreign debt was $0.2 trillion, a 13.0% decrease from the fourth quarter of 2011.

Chart 1 
National net worth
Chart 1: National net worth

Chart description: National net worth

CSV version of the chart

Household net worth rises on continued equity market strength

Household net worth was up 1.8% in the first quarter, led by gains in the values of household holdings of equities (including mutual funds) and pension assets. The increase in equities reflected a 3.7% rise in the Standard and Poor's / Toronto Stock Exchange composite index in the quarter, marking the second consecutive quarterly increase in equity values. The value of total real estate assets also increased during the quarter, by just over 1%. On a per capita basis, household net worth rose to $185,800, from $182,900 in the previous quarter.

Chart 2 
Change in household net worth
Chart 2: Change in household net worth

Chart description: Change in household net worth

CSV version of the chart

Growth in household credit market debt slowed in the first quarter to 0.9%, driven by a slower rate of borrowing in consumer credit and mortgage loans. Moreover, the gains in the value of household financial assets more than offset the increase in credit market debt, resulting in a decrease in the ratio of credit market debt to net worth to 24.9% in the first quarter from 25.1% in the previous quarter.

Growth in household disposable income slowed in the quarter as a result of a decline in household investment income and an increase in personal income taxes and other social contributions. This slowdown was more pronounced than the slowdown in credit market debt and, as a result, the ratio of credit market debt to personal disposable income increased to 152.0% in the first quarter from 150.5% in the previous quarter.

Government net debt trends upward

Total government net debt (expressed at book value) rose to $820 billion in the first quarter from $810 billion in the previous quarter. The ratio of total government net debt to gross domestic product (GDP) continued to trend upward, increasing slightly to 47.2% in the first quarter from 47.0% in the fourth quarter.

The increase in the ratio of debt to GDP for other levels of government (including provincial governments) was more pronounced than that of the federal government from the fourth quarter of 2008 to the end of the first quarter of 2012. Over this time, the debt-to-GDP ratio for other levels of government rose from 16.4% to 23.7%. The federal government debt-to-GDP ratio rose from 29.2% to 34.9% over the same period.

Chart 3 
Government net debt to gross domestic product
Chart 3: Government net debt to gross domestic product

Chart description: Government net debt to gross domestic product

CSV version of the chart

Corporate leverage continues to decline

The ratio of total private non-financial corporation credit market debt to equity (expressed at book value) decreased to 54.0% in the first quarter, continuing a downward trend observed since the fourth quarter of 2008. Although corporate sector credit market debt increased in the first quarter, led by net new issuance of commercial paper, this increase was more than offset by the continued increase in corporate undistributed earnings and net new equity issues.

Chart 4 
Corporate debt-to-equity ratio
Chart 4: Corporate debt-to-equity ratio

Chart description: Corporate debt-to-equity ratio

CSV version of the chart

The value of financial institutions' equity portfolio increases

The value of total financial assets of lending institutions and institutional investors (such as trusteed pension plans and mutual funds) increased 1.8% to $7.6 billion in the first quarter. This increase reflected a second consecutive quarter of positive equity market performance.

The increase in the value of financial assets was led by upward revaluations of holdings of Canadian equities and, in particular, foreign shares. The latter's increase in value was moderated by the appreciation of the Canadian dollar against most major currencies in the first quarter.

Note to readers

Canadian publicly traded companies have begun their transition to International Financial Reporting Standards in the first quarter of 2011. As all companies adopt the new reporting standards over the next quarters, this will have an affect on the National Balance Sheet Accounts (NBSA). For more information on some of these impacts, consult the following article: "Impact of new accounting standards on the Financial and Wealth Accounts."

The 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.

The historical revision to the Canadian National Accounts is scheduled for release beginning in October 2012. A schedule of releases has been posted on the National economic accounts website. Additional information will be posted as it becomes available.

For more information, contact the information officer (

Available without charge in CANSIM: tables CANSIM table378-0012 to 378-0014 and CANSIM table378-0049 to 378-0116.

Definitions, data sources and methods: survey number survey number1806.

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 first quarter 2012 National Balance Sheet Accounts: Data Tables, Vol. 5, no. 1 (Catalogue number13-022-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 first quarter 2012 issue of Canadian Economic Accounts Quarterly Review, Vol. 11, no. 1 (Catalogue number13-010-X, free). This publication is now available from the Key resource module of our website under Publications. Revised estimates of the National Balance Sheet Accounts for the first, second, third and fourth quarters of 2011 have been released along with those for the first quarter of 2012. These estimates incorporate new and revised source data and updated estimates of seasonal patterns.

Data for the second quarter will be released on September 14.

For more information, or to enquire about the concepts, methods or data quality of this release, contact Statistics Canada's National Contact Centre (toll-free 1-800-263-1136; 613-951-8116; or the Media Hotline (613-951-4636;