Yesterday the Federal Reserve released a sobering survey on just how much Americans were affected by the recession:
- In 2007, median net worth for the average family was $126,400.
- By 2010, net worth was just $77,300.
That’s nearly a 40% drop—to put this in perspective, the last time we had net worth at this level was 1992, so the recession effectively wiped out 18 years of gains in net worth.
Unsurprisingly, the primary culprit was plunging home equity. Over those three years, median home equity dropped over 42% to $55,000. Additionally, median income declined 7.7% to $45,800.
But as shocking as this news is, we need to keep in mind that this data applies to 2010; in the past two years the U.S. economy has made considerable gains. Median income now weighs in at $61,000, and consumer confidence has improved significantly.
Also, the housing market has been gaining ground on several fronts:
- The median price of a new home has risen 4.9% since last year.
- In April, sales of existing homes climbed 3.4% to 4.62 million—just under a two year high.
- In April, homebuilders started construction on 717,000 new homes, representing a 2.6% climb from March.
- In April construction spending rose 0.3%—trumping economists estimates that spending would remain flat.
There is no doubt that the recession hurt a lot of American families, and many are still finding their footing. But investors need to focus on the future — not the rear-view mirror — and it is encouraging that despite these problems we are still seeing gains in consumer confidence and consumer spending.
So I maintain that the U.S. is still the oasis amid the global economic slowdown, and it’s no surprise that my Blue Chip Growth stocks are heavily weighted towards the consumer.
Tomorrow we’ll get an even better picture of how the American consumer is doing—in the form of the Commerce Department’s monthly retail sales report. I’ll have all of the details tomorrow!