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Archive for Friday, September 18, 2009

U.S. households’ net worth rises for 1st time in 2 years

September 18, 2009

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— Americans’ wealth rose this spring for the first time in nearly two years, with stocks and home values gaining as the recession faded.

Still, household net worth remains about 19 percent below its peak in the third quarter of 2007, before the recession began.

The Federal Reserve said net worth grew by $2 trillion to $53.1 trillion in the April-to-June quarter.

Net worth, or the value of assets such as homes, checking accounts and investments minus debts like mortgages and credit cards, rose nearly 4 percent from the first quarter, the Fed said.

Even with the gain, Americans’ net worth stands well below the $65.3 trillion peak it reached two years ago. The increase in the second quarter was led by stock portfolios, according to the Fed report. The value of Americans’ stock holdings rose 21.6 percent from the first quarter, the first increase in two years.

Net worth also was boosted slightly by higher home prices. The value of real-estate holdings rose 1.8 percent, according to the Fed report. That was the first gain since the final quarter of 2006.

This week, Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke said the worst recession since the 1930s probably is over. Most analysts say the U.S. economy is growing in the current quarter, which ends Sept. 30, at an annual rate of 3 to 4 percent.

Bernanke warned that the pace of recovery probably won’t be brisk enough to generate solid job growth and keep the unemployment rate — now at 9.7 percent — from rising.

Collectively, homeowners had 43.1 percent equity in their homes in the second quarter, according to the Fed report. That was up only slightly from a record low of 41.9 percent in the first quarter.

The report showed that total household debt stood at $13.7 trillion in the second quarter. That’s down slightly from $13.8 trillion in the first three months of this year.

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