Household wealth grows $1.2 trillion

By Blake Ellis, staff reporter

NEW YORK (CNNMoney) -- Americans got richer in the third quarter even as home values hit the skids after more than a year of increases.

Net worth for households and individuals climbed $1.2 trillion, or 2%, to $54.9 trillion in the third quarter, according to the Federal Reserve's Flow of Funds report released Thursday.

Household wealth had tumbled in the second quarter -- sliding $1.5 trillion between April and June -- after having climbed for four straight quarters. But growth returned in the third quarter thanks to higher stock values, with the S&P rising 11% following a 12% slide in the second quarter.

Corporate equities jumped $939 billion and mutual fund shares gained $378 billion, eclipsing the $698 billion dip in real estate assets -- the first decline in five quarters.

"Today's report shows that households have continued to rebuild their balance sheets throughout Q3, although the boost to net worth was completely due to a strong recovery in the equities market," Theresa Chen, an economist with Barclays Capital, said in a note to clients. "Looking forward, we expect net worth to rise further as overall economic activity increases and the employment outlook improves."

Meanwhile, liabilities fell $7.6 billion in the third quarter, as a $64 billion drop in home mortgages was slightly offset by a $22 billion gain in consumer credit. To top of page

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