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The number of millionaires worldwide grew by nearly two million last year and the group grew nearly 14 percent richer, boosted by rising stock markets and improving economies, according to a study released this week.

The number of high-net worth individuals, who have $1 million (R10.6m) or more to invest, rose 15 percent to 13.7 million last year, and their combined wealth rose to $52.62 trillion, marking five years of growth since the 2008 financial crisis, according to Capgemini and RBC Wealth Management’s latest world wealth report.

While more millionaires call North America home than any other region, Asia-Pacific was a close second and is expected to overtake North America this year, led by surging wealth in Japan, where stock and real estate markets gained, and China, where economic growth adds millionaires at a fast clip every year.

The US had the most millionaires, at four million, followed by Japan with 2.3 million. Germany was third with 1.1 million, and China was fourth with 758 000. These four countries were home to about 60 percent of the world’s wealthy.

The population of global millionaires included 128 300 “ultra” high net worth individuals, who have more than $30m of assets to invest. This segment, while only 0.9 percent of the wealthy population, holds 34.6 percent of the group’s combined wealth.

Beyond the four countries with the most millionaires, other clusters of wealth growth stood out last year.

Those included oil-rich Norway and Kuwait, the financial centres of Hong Kong and Singapore, and the emerging economic power houses of India, Russia and Taiwan, all of which added to the population of millionaires at a faster-than-average clip.

Europe and Latin America lagged, the report showed.

The report was based on a survey of more than 4 500 high net worth individuals across 23 countries. – Andrea Hopkins from Reuters