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Net worth in U.S. grew in 2Q for first time since ’07

Jeannine Aversa Associated Press

WASHINGTON — 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.

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.

Last 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. The economy shrank at a 1 percent pace in the second quarter, much slower than in previous quarters.

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 a 26-year high of 9.7 percent — from rising.

The report showed that total household debt — including mortgages, credit cards, autos and other consumer loans — 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. It suggests that households are trimming debt, but doing so slowly.

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