Stock Market Wealth Is Offsetting Housing Declines

Rising equity portfolios mean the real-estate crunch doesn't sting so much.

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My guy Ed Yardeni, economist over at Oak Associates, makes a great point about the plunge in home prices: "The negative wealth effect from real estate is likely to be more than offset by the positive wealth effect from the global bull market in stocks." He then notes that at the end of June, household real estate was worth a record $21 trillion. However, Americans owned a record-low 51.7 percent of their homes at the time. In other words, owners' equity was $10.9 trillion. By comparison, Americans had a record $16.8 trillion in retirement funds at the end of last year. What's more, the value of all stocks traded in the United States rose to a record $22.2 trillion, slightly exceeding the gross value of our homes. Both of these items are up roughly $10 trillion since early 2002.