WASHINGTON (AP) -- A stock market rally at the end of last year helped Americans rebuild some of the wealth they lost during the recession -- a trend that carried over into 2012.
The Federal Reserve says household net worth increased 2.1 percent to $58.5 trillion in the October-December quarter. That's the biggest increase in a year and follows a 4.2 percent drop in wealth over the summer.
Americans' stock portfolios rose nearly 10 percent last quarter to drive the gains. The Standard & Poor's 500 index has risen 20 percent from early October through the end of trading Wednesday. Over the summer, it suffered its biggest quarterly loss since the financial crisis.
More wealth led households to increase their debt for the first time in 3 1/2 years, even though home values declined.