Global wealth jumps to all-time high, powered by North America

US leads with 12.1 per cent rise, followed by China, with 6.7 per cent. Wealth per adult tops US$50,000 for first time since 2007

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 09 October, 2013, 10:16am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 09 October, 2013, 12:04pm

Global wealth has reached an all-time high this year, led by rapid growth in North America, where investors benefited from rising property prices and a bull market in equities that drove the Dow Jones Industrial Average to record peaks, Credit Suisse says.

People in the United States had the greatest combined increase in personal wealth in the year to June, US$8.1 trillion, 12.1 per cent higher than a year earlier, followed by China, with US$1.4 trillion, up 6.7 per cent, the Swiss bank’s latest Global Wealth Report shows.

The world’s total wealth rose to US$241 trillion, and wealth per adult stood at US$51,634, the first time that figure has passed the US$50,000 threshold since 2007.

The growth in China’s total household wealth, which reached US$22.1 trillion, came mainly from increases in non-financial assets, mainly property, and lagged the growth rate in Europe and India, the report said.

China now has more people in the top 10 per cent of global wealth holders than any other country except the US and Japan, having moved into third place in the rankings by overtaking Italy and Germany, the report shows.

There are now more than a million “high net worth individuals” in China who have at least US$1 million in assets.

Of US dollar millionaires worldwide, China accounts for 4 per cent and seems likely to overtake leading European countries including Italy, Britain, France and Germany within a decade, the report said.

The increase in wealth in China during the second half of 2012 was about three times the growth achieved since 2008, the report said.

Fan Cheuk-wan, Asia-Pacific chief investment officer for private banking and wealth management at Credit Suisse, said structural reforms on the mainland would help increase the speed of wealth creation.

"More opportunities are opened for the private sector, as entrepreneurs can create wealth through IPOs and other fundraising activities," she said at a news conference in Hong Kong on Wednesday. "This would be an important source of wealth creation for China in the next decades."

Japan was the only major economy where total household wealth declined, by US$5.8 trillion, or 20 per cent. Despite a 52 per cent gain in the country’s stock market, Japanese citizens hold less equities in their asset portfolios. The reduction in the wealth pool was partly due to a depreciation in the yen, which weakened 22 per cent against the US dollar over the past year, the report said.

Additional reporting by Kanis Li