When earlier today, the Fed released its latest Z.1 (Flow of Funds report) for the second quarter, there were no surprises: thanks to the relentless liquidity injections by global central banks (charted here) resulting in record stock market levels, total household net worth rose once more, increasing by $1.4 trillion in the quarter (up from a downward revised $1.2 trillion in the previous quarter) to a new record high $81.5 trillion. This was the result of a $95.4 trillion in total assets, offset by $13.9 trillion in liabilities, mostly mortgage debt of $9.4 trillion, as well as some $3.2 trillion in consumer credit, which may or may not account entirely for the student debt bubble.
The historical chart, net of various extensive revisions to the data, is shown below: on it the impact of the Great Financial Crisis is clearly shown when net worth dipped from $68 trillion to $55 trillion only to ramp in a straight line to the most recent print of $81.5 trillion. Thank you Fed.
But perhaps most importantly, the percentage of financial assets as a percentage of total, just rose to the record high level it has never in the past surpassed: 70.3%. As the chart below shows, this is the highest proportion that financial assets have ever hit in the entire history of modern US society. Every time financial assets hit 70.3% of total, either housing values finally pick up and offset the disproportional increase in financial assets, or there has been a crash in financial asset values themselves.
Why is this important?
Because it means that while in previous wholesale bubbles, at least the general public would also participate in the "wealth effect", when housing assets - spread far more broadly among the US population than equities - rose in value alongside financial assets, which on a discretionary basis are mostly held by some 10% or less of the population. Indeed, real estate assets in Q2 2014 were $22.9 trillion, barely changed from the previous quarter, and well below the all time bubble high of $24.9 trillion as of 2006.
Which means that yet another quarter has passed in which the bulk of "wealth creation" has benefited only the richest component of US society, something that even French economists have finally noticed. As for the non-rich... well, recall: "America's Poor Have Never Been Deeper In Debt."
How much longer can the stealthy wealth transfer of the Fed and its central bank peers, in which only the super rich benefit, continue? The answer is unknown, but if nobody has noticed yet, after some $26 trillion in net worth increases benefiting only the wealthiest Americans, then we doubt anyone will ever notice.