U.S. Household Wealth Fell $1.23 Trillion in Third Quarter

  • Value of financial assets dropped $1.7 trillion last quarter
  • Wealth decline led consumers, businesses to slow borrowing

Americans’ wealth declined in the third quarter by the most in four years, reflecting a slump in stock prices that have since recovered.

Net worth for households and non-profit groups decreased by $1.23 trillion from July through September, or 1.4 percent, from the previous three months to $85.2 trillion, the Federal Reserve said Thursday in its financial accounts report, previously known as the flow of funds report.

Equity values plunged in the third quarter as concerns mounted about the global economy, overshadowing the positive effect from higher home prices on Americans’ net worth. As the value of their assets declined, households slowed the pace of borrowing, the report also showed.

Household debt rose at a 1.5 percent annualized rate in the third quarter, the slowest pace in almost two years. Growth in consumer credit, including auto and student loans, climbed at a 7.2 percent pace from 8.5 percent in the second quarter, while mortgage borrowing cooled to a 1.6 percent rate from 2.4 percent.

The value of financial assets owned by households, including stocks and pension-fund holdings, decreased by $1.7 trillion last quarter. The Standard & Poor’s 500 Index declined 6.9 percent in the third quarter. The index is up 6.6 percent since Sept. 30 through yesterday.

Household real-estate assets climbed by $443 billion. Owners’ equity as a share of total household real-estate holdings increased to 56.7 percent last quarter from 56.1 percent in the previous three months.

Total non-financial debt advanced at a 2 percent annualized pace last quarter, the slowest since the second quarter of 2011. Business borrowing showed a 4.7 percent gain. State and local government debt increased at a 1.7 percent pace and obligations of federal agencies rose 0.2 percent.

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