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Stock and housing gains put US net worth at record

WASHINGTON — Surging stocks and rebounding home prices boosted Americans’ wealth to a record in the final three months of last year, though both trends have slowed this year.

Household net worth jumped nearly $3 trillion during last year’s fourth quarter to $80.7 trillion. Stock and mutual fund portfolios gained nearly $1.7 trillion, or 9 percent, according to the Federal Reserve. The value of homes rose just over $400 billion, or 2 percent. Checking account balances, pensions plan assets, and retirement savings also increased.

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Higher household net worth is one reason economists have forecast the economy will accelerate this year.

Household wealth reflects the value of homes, stocks, bank accounts, and other assets minus mortgage, credit card, and other debt.

Last year, home prices rose by the most in eight years, and the Standard & Poor’s 500 index of large stocks jumped 32 percent. This year, home-price gains have slowed, and the S&P 500 has risen 1.4 percent.

The equity Americans have in homes has reached 51.7 percent, the highest since before the recession, up from a record low of 36.5 percent in early 2009. The recession cut overall wealth to $55.6 trillion in first-quarter 2009. That was 19 percent below the prerecession peak of $68.8 trillion.

US wealth has since recovered. But households haven’t benefited equally. Much of the rebound stems from stock market gains, and 10 percent of households own about 80 percent of stocks. Most middle-class wealth stems from home ownership, and house prices nationwide remain below the 2006 peak.

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