Household net worth surged in the second quarter to surpass the pre-pandemic peak after a virus-driven slump at the start of the year, as a rebound in stocks buoyed Americans’ wealth.
Household net worth increased by $7.6 trillion, or 6.8%, to $119 trillion, while the level of federal government borrowing soared as lawmakers responded with massive fiscal relief, according to a Federal Reserve report out Monday. The gain was the largest in quarterly records back to 1952. The value of equities advanced $5.7 trillion from the prior quarter while real estate increased about $458 billion.
The covid-19 pandemic and related shutdowns sent the economy into the deepest recession in records dating back to the 1940s, which resulted in a record decline in household net worth in the first quarter. Since then, the economy has seen a gradual, though uneven, recovery. The S&P 500 recovered quickly, hitting pre-pandemic levels by mid-August before surging to fresh highs.
The housing sector has experienced a similar V-shaped rebound as record-low mortgage rates and pent-up demand bolster sales. However, the labor market — though recovering — has a long way to go. Not all Americans are benefiting from the rebound in stocks and housing, though. Some 45% of the U.S. population doesn’t own equities, according to a Gallup survey from June 2020, and about one-third of households don’t own a home.
Low interest rates have helped support corporate borrowing amid the pandemic, and the Fed has signaled rates will remain near zero through 2023.
Firms’ debt increased by $594.6 billion from the prior quarter, or at an 14% annualized rate, in the April-June period to a total outstanding $17.6 trillion. Federal debt outstanding ballooned $2.9 trillion, or an annualized 58.9%, to $22.5 trillion.
Consumer credit not including mortgage debt decreased $69 billion in the second quarter, the first drop in at least four years, as the pandemic prompted Americans to cut back on credit-card borrowing. For every $1 in debt owed by households, businesses owed $1.09, the highest ratio since 1989, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.