06/09/2011 04:30 pm ET | Updated Aug 09, 2011

Growth Of Household Wealth Slows Sharply While Private Debt Shrinks

CHICAGO- (Ann Saphir) - Household wealth rose by $943 billion in the first quarter, slowing sharply from the previous quarter, and household debt shrank at a 2 percent annual rate.

Gains from stocks and other investments boosted household net worth to $58.1 trillion, but the gains were tempered by a decline in the value of real estate, data released by the Federal Reserve showed on Thursday.

The first-quarter gain in net worth was less than half the revised $2.4 trillion surge in the fourth quarter.

Households have struggled to rebuild net worth after the collapse of the housing market and the financial crisis, and wealth is still well below its peak of $64.2 trillion at the end of 2007, the figures show. A sagging housing market is hampering those efforts, with the value of real estate sliding by $299 billion in the quarter.

Data showed that household corporate equity investments gained 6.9 percent, to $8.8 trillion, after gaining 10 percent to $8.2 trillion in the fourth quarter, reflecting slower growth in the benchmark Standard & Poor's 500 index.

The government's debt expanded 7.8 percent on an annual rate in the first quarter, down from 14.6 percent in the previous quarter.

State and local government debt contracted for the first time since the second quarter of 2010, dropping 2.9 percent on an annual basis after expanding 7.9 percent in the previous quarter.

Nonfinancial businesses held a record $1.91 trillion in liquid assets, such as cash, in the first quarter, up from $1.9 trillion in the previous quarter, the data showed. The swelling coffers suggest companies have plenty of cash to step up investments.

(Editing by James Dalgleish)

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