American household net worth plunged nearly $4 trillion late last year


GenX is a financial mess, according to a new report. Elizabeth Keatinge has more.

The net worth of American households plunged by more than $3.7 trillion in the fourth quarter of 2018 as sharp drops in the stock market dealt a blow to their wealth.

Americans’ wealth totaled $104.3¬†trillion at the end of the period, down 3.5 percent from the end of the third quarter. The total was still up 0.8 percent from the end of 2017.

The decrease snapped a streak of 12 straight quarters of increases in the total net worth of American households, which last declined in the third quarter of 2015.

The data, released¬†Thursday by the Federal Reserve, revealed that American investments in corporate equities fell by $4.6 trillion during the fourth quarter. Americans’ real estate wealth increased by $300 billion.

During the fourth quarter, household debt rose by 2.9 percent, compared with a year earlier.

Americans were hard hit by the worst quarterly performance for the major stock indexes in about a decade, according to investment firm T. Rowe Price.

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For the full period, the Dow Jones industrial average declined 11.3 percent, the S&P 500 Index fell 13.5 percent and the Nasdaq Composite Index fell 17.5 percent.

But stocks have bounced back sharply so far in 2019, easing some of the fears about the decline in household net worth.

As of early Thursday afternoon, the Dow was up 10.1 percent for the year, the S&P 500 was up 10.6 percent and the Nasdaq was up 12.5 percent.

Follow USA TODAY reporter Nathan Bomey on Twitter @NathanBomey.

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