Wealth of Asia’s elite surpasses Europe’s for first time

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SINGAPORE — The wealth of rich Asians has surpassed Europe’s millionaires for the first time as the region’s stock and property prices rebounded from the global recession, a report showed Wednesday.

The wealth of Asia’s high net worth individuals — those with liquid assets of at least $1 million — jumped 31 percent last year to $9.7 trillion, surpassing Europe’s $9.5 trillion, according to a report by Merrill Lynch Wealth Management and Capgemini. For the first time, the size of Asia’s rich population equaled that of Europe at 3 million.

“The star performer was Asia-Pacific, the only region in which both macroeconomic and market drivers of wealth expanded significantly in 2009,” the report said.

Asian wealth was bolstered by a regional economy that expanded 4.5 percent in 2009 despite global GDP contracting 2 percent. Hong Kong, India and China led the wealth growth as property and stock markets in these countries surged last year after sharp falls in 2008.

North America is still the wealthiest region, with 3.1 million rich worth $10.7 trillion, the report said.

Globally, the wealth of the rich grew 19 percent last year to $39 trillion, with North American wealth increasing 18 percent while Europe was up 14 percent, the report said.

The wealth of Latin America’s rich rose 15 percent to $6.7 trillion, the Middle East increased 5.1 percent to $1.5 trillion and Africa gained 20 percent to $1 trillion.