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Crumbling confidence

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%.)







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