Household Net Worth Reaches Fresh Record on Homes, Stocks

U.S. household net worth jumped in the first three months of the year to a fresh record, propelled by further gains in stock prices and home values.

Household net worth increased by $5 trillion, or 3.8%, to $136.9 trillion in the first quarter, a Federal Reserve report out Thursday showed. The gain included a $3.2 trillion gain in the value of equities and a more than $968 billion improvement in real estate held by households.

The data underscore how fiscal efforts to speed up the economic recovery paired with accommodative monetary policy helped protect the wealth of millions of Americans. Trillions of dollars in stimulus in 2020 and a larger-than-expected fiscal package signed in mid-March are providing fuel to the stock-market rally.

In addition, the Federal Reserve has kept borrowing costs near zero. That’s led to record-low mortgage rates, which have bolstered demand for homes. The median selling price for previously owned homes is at a record high.

At the same time, many Americans aren’t benefiting from recent gains in wealth. While the pandemic has led to a surge in savings and opportunities for many to buy a home or invest, the downturn has disproportionately impacted low-income workers, many of whom rent and don’t participate in the stock market.

Net savings grew at an annualized pace of $571.7 billion in the first quarter after a $702 billion surge at the end of 2020, also a product of federal stimulus efforts. Elevated savings have been a key driver of the snapback in consumer spending seen in recent months and will likely continue to bolster consumption in the months ahead.

Business debt increased by about $194 billion from the prior quarter, or at an 4.4% annualized rate, in the January to March period to a total of $17.9 trillion.

Federal debt outstanding increased nearly $386 billion, or an annualized 6.5%, to $24 trillion. Government debt has swelled during the pandemic, as policy makers stepped in to ease the economic impact of the health crisis on people and businesses with trillions of dollars of support.

Consumer credit not including mortgage debt rose by about $31 billion in the first quarter.

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