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Canadians' net worth up eight per cent, rebounding well from downturn

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TORONTO - Canada's average household net worth rose nearly eight per cent in 2013 — making it one of the best years since the recession — mostly because of rising stock and real estate values as well as moderating debt levels.

That's according to data from Environics Analytics, which found that the average net worth per Canadian household last year grew by 7.7 per cent to $442,130.

It found that non-mortgage consumer debt was flat compared with 2012 while mortgage debt increased more slowly than the value of real estate or investments.

"Overall, 2013 was an excellent year for Canadian balance sheets," said Environics senior researcher Peter Miron said Monday in a press release.

"Many people benefited from the strong stock market. But they also saved more and didn't take on more debt — preparing (perhaps) for a rainy day."

The report drew on data from 121 financial and investment statistics from a variety of sources, including the Bank of Canada and Statistics Canada.

The report also found that disparities in wealth for households in Canada's three richest cities — Vancouver, Toronto and Calgary — are rapidly vanishing. Average household net worth in each of those cities is now within $29,718, or 4.4 per cent, of each other. In addition, the average household has $533,172 worth of real estate holdings.

Alberta, Nova Scotia and Ontario had the highest growth in net worth among the provinces in 2013.

In Saskatchewan, household net worth increased by 7.4 per cent, which was below the 7.7 per cent national average. Environics said that consumer debt in the province was up 7.6 per cent, partially offsetting a 9.1 per cent increase in the value of liquid assets such as investments.

"A lot of people moved to Saskatchewan to take advantage of the resource-based jobs and they sparked an economic boom," said Miron. "But now the real estate market is starting to cool off while incomes are staying high. Taking on more debt is a belief in better days to come."

The cities reporting the greatest increase in net worth were Oshawa and Halifax, where household net worth grew by double digits — 11.2 per cent and 10.9 per cent, respectively. Calgary was also part of the group, gaining a 10.6 per cent increase in net worth.

From a macro view, Environics said the gains weren't limited to a few small pockets — the effect was felt across the country.

Nationwide, the new data indicates that stock portfolios are growing, savings are on the rise and mortgage debt has ticked up only modestly

Households enjoyed growth in liquid assets due to a robust stock market in Canada and the U.S. and took out more mortgages at the same rate that they're paying it down.

In 2013, the growth in household debt was mostly attributable to mortgage debt growth of 3.3 per cent, as low interest rates kept mortgage debt manageable.

Consumer debt from credit cards, loans and lines of credit was unchanged from 2012.

Households in Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and British Columbia paid down the most debt whereas the debt-to-disposable income ratio increased in Saskatchewan, Newfoundland and Manitoba.

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