The results of RBC Wealth management and Capgemini’s World Wealth Report 2012 did not exactly bring cheers to the ranks of the world’s wealthy, but a few countries in emerging markets, however, glimmered in the sand.
Countries in the Asia-Pacific region, Latin America, the Middle East, and even Europe bucked the trend and witnessed promising growth among in their upper class.
Globally, the high net worth population lost 1.7% of investable assets to a volatile market. The U.S. alone saw a 1.1% decline in the wealth of its high net worth individuals after a rise of 8.6% last year. And many industrial countries such as India and Hong Kong watched their population of high net worth individuals shrink as the world’s GDP slowed to 2.7% from 4.1% in 2010.
Despite losses in Hong Kong and a stumbling equity market, numbers of high net worth individuals in Asia-Pacific, for example, jumped 1.6%, twice as much as the global growth rate of 0.8%, to overtake North America as home to the largest number of individuals with over $1 million in investable assets. Although North America’s wealthy still hold most of the assets, at $11.4 trillion, Asia-Pacific was not that far behind at $10.7 trillion, the report said.
China and Japan led this growth with 5.2% and 4.8% growth respectively in the number of high net worth individuals. While the earthquake had a devastating impact on Japan, conservative positions and government spending on reconstruction boosted numbers.
“Japanese investors are very conservative,” said Chirag Dhakral, a project manager for the World Wealth Report. “They invested only about half of what the rest of the world did in liquidities, so even though markets fell, it didn’t have as disastrous of impacts.”
South Korea came from behind to outplace India as the 12th largest company in terms of high net worth population. And Thailand scored well with 12.8% growth in its high net worth population, which is mostly due to real estate gains and a strong Gross National Income.
According to the report, Latin America had strong growth in its upper class regardless of poorly performing equity markets and high interest rates. Debt in Europe and slower growth in China dropped the Latin America Indicative index by 21.6%, but some countries remained strong. Brazil’s population of high net worth individuals jumped 6.2% mostly due to real estate and high GNI.
“Brazil is an upcoming country because of its natural resources and many of the prices for these goods went up in 2011,” Dhakral said.
Ireland demonstrated strong growth after its government enacted austerity measures. The population of high net worth individuals rose by 16.8% and equity market capitalization surged by 80% despite steep losses in years past and an 18.7% drop in equity markets globally.
Eastern Europe grew as well despite the Eurozone crisis. Its GDP, 3.8%, remained a full percentage point higher than the rest of the world.
Moreover, the only region to report growth in the assets of high net worth individuals was the Middle East where the overall financial wealth of that group rose 0.7%. Though the report cited the region’s political turmoil in much of the reason as a cause for the global slowdown, the wealth of high net worth individuals was buoyed by oil.
“Globalization plays a part, but the biggest factor is oil, and that’s why their wealth increased whereas many others saw a decrease,” Dhakral said.
What the 2013 report had in store for these developing countries was difficult to say, Dhakral noted. A number of the same uncertainties would influence the world’s wealthy including the Eurozone crisis, China’s economy, and political strife.