WASHINGTON - American households lost $1.33 trillion of their wealth in the first three months of the year as the recession took a bite out of stock portfolios and dragged down home prices.

The Federal Reserve reported today that household net worth fell to $50.38 trillion in the January-March quarter, the lowest level since the third quarter of 2004. The first-quarter figure marked a decline of 2.6 percent, or $1.33 trillion, from the final quarter of 2008.

Net worth represents total assets such as homes and checking accounts, minus liabilities like mortgages and credit card debt.

The damage to wealth in the first quarter came from the sinking stock market. The value of Americans' stock holdings dropped 5.8 percent from the final quarter of last year.

Another hit came from falling house prices. The value of household real-estate holdings fell 2.4 percent.

The latest snapshot of Americans' balance sheets was contained in the Fed's quarterly report called the flow of funds.

Despite the drop, the speed at which net worth shrunk slowed to start the year. During the recession's deepest point in the October-December period, Americans' net worth fell 8.6 percent, according to revised figures.