Washington D.c., MD (PressExposure) March 14, 2009 -- Recently released Federal Reserve figures show that household wealth fell by a record $5.1 trillion in the period October to December 2008, which was almost twice as much as the decrease in the previous quarter.
According to the Federal Reserve's quarterly Flow of Funds report that was released March 12, 2009, the net worth of households and non-profit groups dropped to $51.5 trillion from $56.6 trillion in the third quarter of last year, making in the lowest level for four years.
Household net worth fell in five successive quarters creating a loss of $12.8 trillion during that period and the decline comes close to equaling the total size of the U.S. economy, which stood at $14.2 trillion in the last three months of 2008.
America's overall wealth declined by $11.2 trillion in 2008 from the previous year, which is the biggest annual decrease since the government began keeping its quarterly records in 1952.
Total borrowing by consumers, businesses and government agencies rose to an annual rate of 6.3% during last quarter, compared with an 8.1% rise during the prior quarter, and the gain was led by a 37% increase in borrowing by the federal government, and borrowing by state and local governments rose at a 1.2% rate.
The amount borrowed by businesses climbed at an annual pace of 1.7% after having risen 4.1% during the previous quarter.
Additional figures that were just released by the Commerce Department indicate that purchases dropped at a 4.3% annual rate between October and December after falling by 3.8 % during the previous three months. The decline, which was led by the biggest drop in consumer spending in three decades caused the U.S. economy to shrink at a 6.2 % annual rate during the last quarter of 2008.
Debt dropped at a 2% annual rate, which was the first decrease on record, and mortgage borrowing fell at a 1.6% annual rate following a drop of 2.3% the previous quarter.
Many analysts expect people to hunker down, and to attempt to save more in the coming months which will further restrain spending and economic growth.
Jonathan Basile, who is an economist at Credit Suisse Holdings USA Inc. in New York opined, "I don't think it's any surprise that wealth has declined so much, given the bad news out of markets and house prices. This decline in wealth is a headwind for spending and it's a big reason to be cautious and to save", and Sal Guatieri, who is a senior economist at BMO Capital Markets in Toronto, said, "Evaporating wealth and forced savings, coupled with rampant job losses, suggest consumers will continue to hibernate".