The Globe and Mail reports in its Tuesday edition that commercial lending by the Big Six banks has increased rapidly since the country emerged from the last financial crisis -- at a compound annual rate of roughly 9 per cent over the past eight years.
The Globe's James Bradshaw writes that the trend continued in the fourth quarter of 2018, when Canadian commercial loans were 11.3 per cent higher than a year earlier. Yet after years of aggressive expansion, the question now is how much longer banks can continue to pile on commercial loans at a rate that far outpaces the country's economic growth. Some banks have also enjoyed double-digit increases in commercial loan balances in the United States and other international markets, year-over-year. So far, there is no evidence of a slowdown, but there are reasons to be wary.
"Growth in the commercial portfolio was counted on as a major offset for the Canadian business coming out of the 2008-09 credit crisis, and it has clearly delivered," said Sumit Malhotra, an analyst at Scotia Capital. "However, given the consistently strong pace of increase in the commercial book over the past eight years, we think it is reasonable to expect some deceleration in the rate of growth."
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