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Asia's millionaires outnumber America's

Shanghai is a major financial center in China, which ranks fourth worldwide in its number of high-net-worth individuals.

Story highlights

  • A report shows the Asia-Pacific region has the most millionaires in the world for the first time
  • North America was a close second and led with the highest amount of investable wealth
  • Investable wealth fell across all regions, except the Middle East, due to investments in riskier assets
  • China accounted for about half of the HWNI increase in the Asia-Pacific

For the first time, the Asia-Pacific region has become home to the highest number of millionaires in the world, according to an annual global wealth report by Capgemini and Royal Bank of Canada Wealth Management.

Asia-Pacific surpassed North America in 2011 to have 3.37 million high-net-worth individuals (HNWI), which the report defined as people with at least US$ 1 million available for investment, excluding personal assets such as primary homes, collectibles, and consumer durables.

North America was a close second with 3.35 million HNWIs, although the region still led with the highest amount of investable wealth at US $11.4 trillion, compared to Asia-Pacific's US $10.7 trillion.

Despite the reshuffling, investable wealth fell across all regions, except the Middle East, due to HNWI investments in risky, less liquid assets amid high volatility in global markets. The overall 1.7% decline was the first recorded since the 2008 financial crisis. At 11 million, the worldwide number of HNWIs only increased by 0.8%.

China accounted for about half the increase of HWNIs in the Asia-Pacific, where the super-rich increased 5.2% to 562,000 people—placing the country in fourth place behind the U.S., Japan, and Germany. On the other hand, Hong Kong and India were the worst-hit, falling 17.4% and 18%, respectively. Singapore and South Korea also saw falling number of HNWIs.

The report cited rising inflation, declining exports due to weakened European demand, and crises such as Japan's earthquake in March last year as the key negative factors impacting the region. It went on to say the region's growth will "depend most heavily on whether China can engineer a soft landing, and the mature economy of Japan can recover from a challenging 2011."

    The 16th World Wealth Report, which assessed economic activity in 2011, covered 71 countries that account for more than 98% of gross national income.

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