U.S. household net net worth falls for first time in a year

(Reuters) -U.S. household wealth fell to roughly $151 trillion in the third quarter, pulled down by a drop in the value of stocks which more than offset a half-trillion rise in the value of property prices, the Federal Reserve said on Thursday.

Household net worth fell about 1% in the period from July through September from $152.3 trillion at the end of the second quarter, the Fed said in its quarterly snapshot of the balance sheets of households and businesses.

It was the first drop in household wealth since the third quarter of 2022. The U.S. central bank’s rate-hiking campaign to quell inflation dented household net worth for much of last year through falling stock market values and weaker property prices.

The value of holdings of real estate increased $500 billion, while equity values declined $1.7 trillion, the report showed. The Standard & Poor’s 500 total return index, including reinvested dividends, fell 3.27% in the third quarter.

The Fed, which lifted its target overnight lending rate to a 5.25%-5.50% range in late July, has since kept that key rate unchanged over the latest two policy meetings.

Investors expect Fed policymakers to stand pat again at the end of the upcoming policy meeting on Dec. 12-13, with eyes now turning to how soon a rate cut will be delivered amid continued progress in bringing inflation back down to the Fed’s 2% target rate.

The Fed’s efforts to quash inflation have been helped by households no longer as flush with cash, which had been a key driver underpinning strong consumer spending until recently. The size of households’ cash warchests – comprising a variety of bank deposits and money market mutual fund holdings – continued to diminish this quarter, declining for a record sixth straight quarter to $17.7 trillion, the data showed.

At the end of September, that stockpile was down by $3.1 billion compared to the end of June. It’s fallen more than $545 billion from its peak of nearly $18.3 trillion at the end of the first quarter of 2022.

Debt levels for households, businesses and governments also kept rising in the third quarter, although at a slower pace than the previous quarter. Total nonfinancial debt increased at an annualized rate of 5.2%, slower than the 6.3% pace recorded in the April to June period, to $73.0 trillion, with households accounting for $19.8 trillion, businesses $21.2 trillion and government $32 trillion.

Business debt growth moderated for a third straight quarter, to a 1.5% annualized rate.

(Reporting by Lindsay Dunsmuir and Ann Saphir; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama)