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Residential Market Commentary - Crumbling confidence

Apr 27, 2020
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First National Financial LP

The latest consumer confidence numbers from the Conference Board of Canada are another dull spot on an already gloomy outlook.

The April survey by the policy think-tank suggests the future outlook of debt-laden Canadians is at an all-time low and the plunge happened at a record pace – 73 points in just two months.  By comparison, the financial collapse of 2008 also saw a 73-point drop, but that took 13 months.

The Conference Board survey indicates 36.1% of respondents expect to see their finances deteriorate over the next six months.  That is 14 percentage points higher than the previous record of 22.1%.  The survey also suggests a majority of Canadians have a grim view of future employment with 53% of respondents saying they expect their job prospects to get worse over the next six months.

This pessimism is affecting spending plans, at least in the near term.  More than three-quarters of those surveyed, 76.5%, say this is a bad time to make a major purchase like a vehicle or a home.  That is more than 20 percentage points higher than the previous record, posted in February, 2016.

The Conference Board’s readings seem to be confirmed by government figures that show a sharp drop in inflation, a spike in unemployment and a jump in insolvencies.  Nationally, filings for personal and business bankruptcies and proposals rose 9% in February, compared to a year earlier – even before the coronavirus pandemic really took hold.  (Consumer filings led the way with a 9.2% increase.  Business filings were up 1.9%.)