Canadian households' net worth gained $290 billion in Q4 2023

But home values offset strong performance from equities and bonds

Canadian households' net worth gained $290 billion in Q4 2023
Steve Randall

Positive performance of equities and bonds helped add almost $290 billion to Canadian households’ net worth in the final three months of 2023, taking the total to more than $16.4 trillion.

New figures from Statistics Canada reveal a record high value for financial assets in fourth quarter of $9.74 trillion, an increase of almost half a trillion dollars, and beating the previous record in the fourth quarter of 2021.

However, household net worth was negatively impacted by a $158 billion decline in the value of residential real estate, marking the second consecutive quarterly decrease. Although the housing market had shown recovery from the end of 2022, this slowed in the second half of 2023 and the value of resale homes sold in the fourth quarter was down almost 9% from the previous three months.

Looking at the data for the whole of 2023, Canadian households added $637 billion in financial assets (up 7% year-over-year) and $174 billion in non-financial assets (+1.8%). Their liabilities were up 3.4% to more than $98 billion, but this was the slowest amount of annual debt accumulation since 1990.

Canadians also kept saving with the savings rate of 6.2% in line with the previous quarter and up from the 5.6% rate recorded at the end of 2022.

Holdings of currency and deposits were up 2.4% in the fourth quarter of 2023, a $50 billion increase and a sharp rise from the three previous quarters which had a combined total of $66 billion. However, the full-year total was down from the $174 billion of 2022, although far above the average for 2010-2019 of around $64 billion.

Mutual fund gains

Households acquired almost $12 billion in mutual fund shares in Q4 2023, having recorded a net outflow for the previous three quarters.

“While non-money market mutual funds have posted substantial net outflows since the middle of 2022, exchange-traded funds and money market funds have proven to be popular choices for household investment, recording the largest net inflows of funds over this period. This may imply that consumers are focusing on shorter investment time horizons and seeking potentially lower fee structures,” Statistics Canada stated.

Debt increased for Canadian households in the last three months of 2023 with consumer credit borrowing up $8.2 billion, the largest rise since 2009. Other credit market debt including mortgages was down $1.8 billion.

But an increase in disposable income (1.3%) was roughly in line with debt payments, meaning the household debt service ratio was up only slightly in the fourth quarter (at 15%) compared to the third quarter (14.9%).