Four of Canada's biggest banks have landed among the top 10 in a global ranking of the strongest banks, although two of them have seen their rankings slip from last year.

According to data compiled by Bloomberg Markets magazine, CIBC, Royal Bank, Scotiabank and TD were ranked 3rd, 4th, 7th and 8th, respectively, on the publication’s annual ranking of the world’s strongest and safest lenders.

Bloomberg Markets maintains a list of global banks with at least $100 billion US in assets. This year, 78 firms made that cut-off.

The magazine then ranks the lenders based on five broad categories, including the size of their capital reserves, the amount they keep on hand to cover bad loans, the percentage of their assets that are inefficient or considered ‘non-performing’ and the amount they take in deposits.

Qatari bank rated No. 1

According to Bloomberg’s metrics, the world’s strongest bank is Qatar National Bank, the state-controlled financier that’s quickly grown to become the largest and one of the most profitable banks in the Middle East.

The Qatari bank displaced Singapore’s Oversea Chinese Banking Corp, which slipped to No. 2 on the list after being in the top spot for the past two years.

Among the Canadian banks. Royal Bank and Scotia saw their ranking improve, while CIBC and TD slipped. In TD’s case, the bank slipped from 4th in the world to 8th.

A particular source of strength for Canadian lenders is how big their Tier 1 capital ratios are. That’s the financial term for a lender’s cash reserves and how many of its own shares it owns — both of which are valuable assets to have act as shock absorbers if and when the economy hits a rough patch.

“Every year, our stress tests tell us we’re stronger than the previous year,” Toronto-Dominion bank president Ed Clark told the magazine. “You don’t have to go out on the risk curve to look after the shareholder, and it’s a foolish bet to do that,” he said.

Although they continue to compare favourably internationally, Canadian banks aren’t immune to the signs of slowdown in the global and domestic economies. Ratings agencies Moody’s and S&P each downgraded their outlooks for most of Canada’s major lenders late in the year. And official data shows Canadians’ debt loads continue to tick alarmingly high, a trend that could make the banks who loaned out all that debt vulnerable.

Another eye-opening placement on the list is U.S lender Citibank. Bloomberg Markets ranked America’s biggest lender in fifth overall.

Citi’s presence so high on the list is significant because it wasn’t that long ago — 2008 to be precise — that the bank was saved from bankruptcy thanks to a $45 billion US bailout from the U.S. government.

Citi was disqualified from Bloomberg’s rankings as recently as last year because it failed the U.S. Federal Reserve’s so-called “stress test” of banks that may be vulnerable to financial shocks.

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  • The housing slowdown

    Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. predicts<a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2013/02/22/canada-housing-forecast-cmhc_n_2743550.html"> construction of new homes will fall 11 per cent this year</a>. That could be bad news for the economy, as Canada has come to be more reliant on real estate and construction-related activity than it has been in recorded history. The "FIRE" industries -- finance, insurance and real estate -- amount to 27 per cent of the economy, up from a long term average of 24. A construction slowdown could translate into big job losses.

  • Commodity prices and the oil "discount'

    Prices for Western Canadian oil are about <a href="http://www.theglobeandmail.com/report-on-business/industry-news/energy-and-resources/price-discounts-the-other-half-of-the-barrel/article9027565/">30 per cent below market rates</a>, due to a lack of capacity in the infrastructure bringing Canadian oil to the U.S., as well as the shale oil boom the U.S. is experiencing. The Harper government is lobbying furiously to get the Keystone XL pipeline built and gain greater access to the U.S., but <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2013/02/21/keystone-pipeline-gina-mccarthy-epa_n_2735643.html">success on that file is far from guaranteed</a>.

  • Consumer debt

    Canadian household debt has <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2012/12/13/consumer-debt-canada-2012_n_2292914.html">reached an all-time high</a>, but in 2012 Canadians still took on more. <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2013/02/05/canadian-consumer-debt-up_n_2621024.html">Consumer debt jumped 6 per cent last year</a>. Analysts are growing concerned that Canadian consumers are over-leveraged and will eventually have to make steep cuts to their spending.

  • Consumer spending

    The flipside of Canadians' explosive debt burden is consumer spending, which is now showing weakness as debt loads continue to grow. <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2013/02/22/holiday-retail-sales-canada-december-2012_n_2741025.html">Retail sales over the crucial holiday season posted an unexpected 2.1-per-cent decline this past December</a>, signalling that the Canadian consumer may be running out of steam, and finally reigning in those debts.

  • Government austerity measures

    A recent CIBC study estimated that austerity measures <a href="http://www.cbc.ca/news/business/story/2012/08/28/cibc-gdp-government-restraint.html">will shave 0.9 per cent off government spending</a>, which in turn will translate into a 0.2 per cent drag on Canada's GDP.

  • U.S. gridlock

    The sequester debate currently going on in the U.S. is just the latest example of legislative gridlock in Washington that can translate into economic pain for Canada. If the $85 billion in cuts that form the sequester go forward, <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2013/02/26/janet-napolitano-border_n_2768080.html?utm_hp_ref=canada-politics">Canada can expect to see gridlock on its borders</a>, harming its very large and important trade relationship with the U.S. Pictured: U.S. House Speaker Joen Boehner.

  • Business investment

    Canadian companies' <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2013/02/27/investment-intentions-canada_n_2773101.html?utm_hp_ref=canada-business">business investment plans are at their lowest non-recession point since 1995</a>, an alarm bell for the economy because investment is so important to the creation of new jobs and future profits.

  • Exports

    Canadian <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2013/02/08/canadas-trade-deficit-na_n_2645297.html">exports fell 2.8 per cent in the last month of 2012</a>, a sign that Canada's largest trading partner, the U.S., is still struggling to sustain growth. But with Asia experiencing a slowdown and Europe continuing to muddle through its debt crisis, the odds of a pick-up in demand for Canadian exports are slim.

  • Global economic turmoil

    Prime Minister Stephen Harper <a href="http://business.financialpost.com/2013/01/23/global-economic-slowdown-having-fiscal-impact-on-canada-harper-says/">recently noted that a global economic slowdown is having an impact on Canada</a>. “There has been a general slowing of the global economy over the past half-year so it is obviously a concern to us. And…it’s going obviously to have some fiscal impact on us, will have some impact on the pace of job creation," Harper said.

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    The Best And Worst Places In Canada To Find A Job

  • WORST: Newfoundland & Labrador - 20.9

    Number of job-seekers for every job available, in the three months ending in January, 2013. Source: StatsCan

  • Prince Edward Island - 15.1

    Number of job-seekers for every job available, in the three months ending in January, 2013. Source: StatsCan

  • New Brunswick - 13.5

    Number of job-seekers for every job available, in the three months ending in January, 2013. Source: StatsCan

  • Nova Scotia - 12.3

    Number of job-seekers for every job available, in the three months ending in January, 2013. Source: StatsCan

  • Nunvaut - 10.7

    Number of job-seekers for every job available, in the three months ending in January, 2013. Source: StatsCan

  • Ontario - 9.3

    Number of job-seekers for every job available, in the three months ending in January, 2013. Source: StatsCan

  • Quebec - 8.6

    Number of job-seekers for every job available, in the three months ending in January, 2013. Source: StatsCan

  • British Columbia - 5.6

    Number of job-seekers for every job available, in the three months ending in January, 2013. Source: StatsCan

  • Northwest Territories - 3.9

    Number of job-seekers for every job available, in the three months ending in January, 2013. Source: StatsCan

  • Manitoba - 3.7

    Number of job-seekers for every job available, in the three months ending in January, 2013. Source: StatsCan

  • Best (tie): Saskatchewan - 2.0

    Number of job-seekers for every job available, in the three months ending in January, 2013. Source: StatsCan

  • Best (tie): Alberta - 2.0

    Number of job-seekers for every job available, in the three months ending in January, 2013. Source: StatsCan

  • Yukon: data not available

    Number of job-seekers for every job available, in the three months ending in January, 2013. Source: StatsCan

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    The Best And Worst Industries In Canada To Find A Job

  • Worst: Construction - 11.1

    Number of job seekers for every available job. Source: StatsCan

  • Arts, entertainment & recreation - 9.9

    Number of job seekers for every available job. Source: StatsCan

  • Manufacturing - 6.8

    Number of job seekers for every available job. Source: StatsCan

  • Education - 6.0

    Number of job seekers for every available job. Source: StatsCan

  • Administrative & support - 4.5

    Number of job seekers for every available job. Source: StatsCan

  • Retail trade - 4.4

    Number of job seekers for every available job. Source: StatsCan

  • Accommodation and food services - 3.9

    Number of job seekers for every available job. Source: StatsCan

  • Oil, gas and mining - 3.2

    Number of job seekers for every available job. Source: StatsCan

  • Transportation and warehousing - 3.0

    Number of job seekers for every available job. Source: StatsCan

  • Professional, scientific & technical - 2.8

    Number of job seekers for every available job. Source: StatsCan

  • Public administration - 2.1

    Number of job seekers for every available job. Source: StatsCan

  • Finance and insurance - 1.7

    Number of job seekers for every available job. Source: StatsCan

  • BEST: Health care, social assistance - 1.4

    Number of job seekers for every available job. Source: StatsCan