Consumer credit plummeted at near-record speed in April as Covid-19 relief efforts kicked in, according to a report from Scotiabank Economics.
The report found consumer credit contracted by a seasonally adjusted 26.3% month over month in April — “the largest single-month drop in recorded history since 1969.”
Scotiabank said consumer borrowing slowed as government relief efforts such as the Canada Emergency Response Benefit took effect and consumers became more cautious amid economic uncertainty.
“With other financial relief programs put in place such as rent and credit card payment deferral opportunities, households are able to finance essential purchases without running up debt,” the report said.
Before Covid-19 relief efforts began to kick in, more consumers were resorting to home equity lines of credit (HELOCs) to tide them over, the report found.
In March, HELOC borrowing reversed a yearlong trend of declines, accelerating by 2.5% year over year “as Canadian households found themselves reaching for built-up home equity to support essential consumption while income support programs had not yet fully taken effect,” the report said.
Mortgage borrowing grew in April — posting a seasonally adjusted monthly gain of 8.8% — although this was likely a “lagged effect” of stronger housing activity earlier in the year, the report said.