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ECONOMICS REPORT - World Wealth Report

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This is Bob Doughty with the VOA Special English Economics Report.

Two-thousand-three was a good year for wealthy people around the world.

Merrill Lynch and Capgemini have released their yearly World Wealth Report. Merrill Lynch is an American financial services company. Capgemini is a French company that gives business advice.

Seven-point-seven million people worldwide had one million dollars or more in wealth at the end of last year. The report says the number grew by seven and a half percent from two-thousand two. That year there were not many new millionaires.

But last year the investments of the wealthy did well. Their wealth increased by almost eight percent. China, India, Spain and the United States were high performers in the creation of wealth.

Wealthy people around the world bought more stock last year. The report shows that their stock holdings as a share of their wealth increased from twenty percent to thirty-five percent.

Last year, an economist at the Federal Reserve Board compared stock ownership rates among Americans. That report said the wealthiest one percent owned more than half of all stock held by individuals or families as of two-thousand-one. The percentage was even higher for government-secured investments in bonds. The top one percent owned sixty-four percent of the bonds.

Stocks and bonds are called liquid assets, just like money in the bank. Houses are less easy to sell. So the World Wealth Report does not include the value of a personal home in its measure of wealth.

Last year, the number of millionaires increased at the highest rates in Africa, North America and the Asia-Pacific areas. The United States had the largest increase in numbers of any country.

But Europe with its larger population continued to have the most millionaires, followed by North America. Both areas have over two million millionaires.

The study says most very wealthy people are at or near retirement age. Seventy percent are over fifty-five years old.

All together, high-worth individuals had twenty-nine-million-million dollars in wealth last year. The World Wealth Report says that is expected to reach forty-million-million dollars by two-thousand-eight.

And, the richest of the rich are doing the best of all. The report says a very small but fast growing group of seventy thousand people are worth more than thirty million dollars.

This VOA Special English Economics Report was written by Mario Ritter. This is Bob Doughty.

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