With household debt-to-income ratios in Canada at historical highs, the Bank of Canada is warning both borrowers and financial institutions to practice caution, particularly when it comes to mortgage lending.
"Financial institutions need to carefully consider the aggregate risk to their entire portfolio of household exposures when evaluating even an insured mortgage, since a household defaulting on an insured mortgage would likely be unable to meet its other debt obligations," the central bank's financial system review said.
On the borrower side, the bank stressed the need for households to "assess their ability to service these debt obligations over their entire maturity, taking into account likely changes in both income and interest rates." The warnings can be seen as a response to the current views that Canada could be heading toward a housing bubble.
Some good news in the report came on the topic of liquidity, with the Bank of Canada saying Canada's major banks have increased their stock of liquid assets and reliance on stable funding sources, "bolstering" their ability to provide credit during periods of stress. The report also said market-based funding is improving and that conditions in the international financial system have improved considerably since the last financial system review in June.