March 10, 2011 / 5:29 PM / in 7 years

Household wealth jumps $2.1 trillion in last quarter

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Household wealth rose by $2.1 trillion in the fourth quarter and their debt contracted at the slowest pace since 2008 as consumers stepped up spending and boosted the fragile economic recovery.

<p>U.S. one hundred dollar notes are seen in this picture illustration taken in Seoul February 7, 2011. REUTERS/Lee Jae-Won</p>

Gains made in investments such as mutual funds boosted overall household wealth to $56.8 trillion even as the value of real estate fell, data released by the Federal Reserve showed on Thursday.

Businesses were holding $1.9 trillion in liquid assets in the last quarter of 2010, fueling hopes that companies would use their stockpiles of cash to step up investments.

The government’s debt expanded 14.6 percent on an annual rate in the fourth quarter, down from 16 percent in the previous quarter.

Meanwhile, state and local government debt expanded 7.9 percent on an annual basis after expanding 5.4 percent in the previous quarter.

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