Thanks to rallying stocks (and no thanks to housing), net worth of Americans is approaching pre-crisis levels.

Using Prof. Shiller's housing price data, constructed a ratio of SP500 to house price index 1950-August 2010 (attached). His data is annual through 2006, and (approximately) quarterly after that, as seen in the attached chart.

The ratio of SP500 to housing hit a many year bottom ca 1981, then rose phenomenally to the peak of the tech bubble in 2000. The ratio crashed after that; bottoming around early 2003, and since then has remained fairly stable except for a drop in early 2009.

Recent government efforts to reflate assets appears to have been more successful with stocks than house prices. This may continue as QE2 has not been having the desired effect, and mortgage rates shot up from many-year lows recently.

Should QE fail to reflate the real estate market, there is a risk of further decline in house prices, more loan delinquency and foreclosures - a kind of positive feedback loop. To avoid this (and keep people happy– the same ones who are unhappy with the recent tax deal), the government could force lenders to write off mortgage principal on distressed properties– moving losses from mortgagees and the real estate market to lenders, and of course upper income taxpayers in future years.


Alston Mabry adds:

Attached is a chart of the gold price divided by the Case-Shiller nominal housing price index.


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