US households are getting poorer for the first time in more than five years, according to figures from the Federal Reserve.
The Fed data yesterday showed total household wealth fell by $533bn to $57,718bn, as falling prices of shares and other securities added to the damage from falling house prices.
The decline will heighten fears that households could pull back from spending as they become poorer, and may find it increasingly difficult to obtain credit from banks and other lenders.
The numbers are likely to be closely scrutinised by investors since they come amid growing signs of renewed nervousness in the equity and credit markets about the outlook for the US economy.
US and European stock markets tumbled amid persistent credit concerns and the dollar’s unrelenting slide helped push commodity prices to new peaks. Meanwhile, investment-grade credit indices in the US and Europe hit record wide levels.
有关凯雷资本公司(Carlyle Capital)和Thornburg Mortgage追缴保证金问题的消息，以及显示去年第四季度美国抵押贷款违约和丧失抵押品赎回权达创纪录水平的数据，继续推助了市场中的避险意愿。
News of margin call problems at Carlyle Capital and Thornburg Mortgage and data showing that US mortgage delinquencies and foreclosures had reached record levels in the fourth quarter of last year, continued to fuel risk aversion.
The figures will also be carefully studied when leading central bankers meet in Basel this weekend.
A similar meeting three months ago paved the way for the US Federal Reserve, European Central Bank and other monetary authorities to announce unprecedented co-ordinated money market intervention, and some investors hope that the central bankers will produce similar action again. However, it remains whether there is any concensus for new action given that the economic problem in the US now appear more severe than elsewhere.
The Fed figures show that the percentage of equity US homeowners own in their homes in agGREgate fell sharply during the quarter to 47.9 per cent, as home prices declined but their mortgages did not.
Since this is an average number, and some households have little or no mortgage debt, this suggests that the proportion with negative equity likely increased significantly as well.