(Toronto) Businesses shifted their use of credit significantly in the first quarter of 2023, new data released Tuesday by Equifax Canada reveals.

According to the credit rating agency, the latest figures highlight growing financial stress in the financial and non-financial trading sectors, and cast doubt on the stability of the Canadian economy.

Equifax said the total business outstanding balance on installment loans issued by banks was down 2.4% from the first quarter of last year.

However, credit card balances increased by 15% and lines of credit increased by 11%.

Head of business solutions at Equifax Canada, Jeff Brown, said in a press release that the decline in installment loans and the shift to credit card use could hamper the growth potential of businesses and their ability to make larger investments.

The first quarter also saw a slowdown in new business openings, which Equifax says is a concerning trend.