Household net worth hit a record high $82.9 trillion

The Federal Reserve released the Q4 2014 Flow of Funds report today: Flow of Funds.

According to the Fed, household net worth increased in Q4 compared to Q3:

The net worth of households and nonprofits rose to $US82.9 trillion during the fourth quarter of 2014. The value of directly and indirectly held corporate equities increased $US742 billion and the value of real estate rose $US356 billion.

Prior to the recession, net worth peaked at $US67.9 trillion in Q2 2007, and then net worth fell to $US54.9 trillion in Q1 2009 (a loss of $US13.0 trillion). Household net worth was at $US82.9 trillion in Q4 2014 (up $US28.0 trillion from the trough in Q1 2009).

The Fed estimated that the value of household real estate increased to $US20.6 trillion in Q4 2014. The value of household real estate is still $US1.9 trillion below the peak in early 2006.

The first graph shows Households and Nonprofit net worth as a per cent of GDP. Household net worth, as a per cent of GDP, is close to the peak in 2006 (housing bubble), and above the stock bubble peak.

This includes real estate and financial assets (stocks, bonds, pension reserves, deposits, etc) net of liabilities (mostly mortgages). Note that this does NOT include public debt obligations.

This ratio was increasing gradually since the mid-70s, and then we saw the stock market and housing bubbles. The ratio has been trending up but has moved sideways over the last year.

This graph shows homeowner per cent equity since 1952.

Household per cent equity (as measured by the Fed) collapsed when house prices fell sharply in 2007 and 2008.

In Q4 2014, household per cent equity (of household real estate) was at 54.5% – up from Q3, and the highest since Q1 2007. This was because of an increase in house prices in Q4 (the Fed uses CoreLogic).

Note: about 30.3% of owner occupied households had no mortgage debt as of April 2010. So the approximately 50+ million households with mortgages have far less than 54.5% equity – and millions still have negative equity.

The third graph shows household real estate assets and mortgage debt as a per cent of GDP.

Mortgage debt increased by $US5 billion in Q4.

Mortgage debt has declined by $US1.26 trillion from the peak. Studies suggest most of the decline in debt has been because of foreclosures (or short sales), but some of the decline is from homeowners paying down debt (sometimes so they can refinance at better rates).

The value of real estate, as a per cent of GDP, was up slightly in Q4, and somewhat above the average of the last 30 years (excluding bubble).

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