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Canadian consumer debt grows in February: RBC

The Royal Bank says February marked the slowest year-to-year growth in Canadian household debt in more than a decade.

RBC Economics says overall household debt stood at $1.67 trillion in February, up 4.5 per cent — the smallest 12-month increase for any month since June 2001.

Total Canadian mortgage debt stood at $1.16 trillion in February, up 5.4 per cent compared with the same month last year — the smallest since November 2001.

Non-mortgage debt including credit cards, personal loans, lines of credit and other loans stood at $512 billion — up 2.5 per cent, the smallest 12-month increase since July 1993.

RBC says policy-makers should welcome a moderation in consumer borrowing that began to emerge in 2012 and has continued in the first two months this year.

However, it says the household sector will also be less of a force in driving overall economic growth — particularly in the housing market.

Finance Minister Jim Flaherty and Bank of Canada governor Mark Carney have warned repeatedly that the level of household debt is too high.