In what will almost certainly be remembered as an important milestone in Asia's march to global domination, a recent study revealed that the population of ultra-wealthy individuals in Hong Kong has for the first time surpassed that of New York City. According to Wealth-X, Hong Kong now has the largest population of individuals worth at least $30 million thanks to a 31% increase over the last year that has pushed its total to about 10,000. By comparison, New York has 9,000. Tokyo took third place, while Paris beat out London (largely thanks to the Brexit-related concerns).
At a time when the richest 1% of the population own half the world's wealth (according to the Credit Suisse annual global wealth report), the number of ultra-wealthy individuals worldwide climbed 13% last year to 256,000 who own an aggregate $31 trillion. Asia's share of this total climbed from 18% a decade ago to roughly a quarter today. Analysts from Wealth-X project that the number of ultra-wealthy will rise by 8.3% compounded in the coming years.
"Asia-Pacific is forecast to close the ultra-wealth gap with other regions over the next five years, but is expected to remain behind Europe, the Middle East and Africa in absolute terms," the report’s authors wrote. The number of ultra-wealthy in Asia-Pacific is expected to rise at a compound rate of 8.3 percent a year, they said.
In a development that will no doubt thrill the neo-liberal social-justice warriors who constantly gripe about the lack of female representation among corporate CEOs, women accounted for about 35,000 of the ultra-rich last year - a record-high share of nearly 14%.
Unsurprisingly, China and Hong Kong propelled most of Asia's gains, according to the survey. However, no city in mainland China cracked the top ten, even as China ranked third overall in the list of nations with the most ultra-wealthy residents. Wealth-X attributed this to the fact that China's wealthy are dispersed across the country, exhibited by the fact that China was home to 26 of the 30 fastest-growing cities for the ultra-rich.
Just as China's rise has benefited its neighbors (something that has made them beholden to the vicissitudes of Chinese growth and trade, as Goldman explained earlier), the ultra-wealthy in Hong Kong owe their success to the debt-fueled economic boom happening on the mainland.
"The dynamism of wealth creation across China’s vast landscape is nevertheless staggering," the authors wrote.
Just as a rising tide lifts all boats, relatively placid markets in 2017 caused the ranks of the ultra-wealthy expand in every region. Still-low oil prices left the Middle East in last place, with 4.4% growth. Interestingly, the richest people still held most of their wealth in liquid assets like cash.
Still, the ultra-rich held more of their wealth -- 35 percent -- in liquid assets such as cash than anything else, the study found. Private holdings accounted for about 32 percent, while public holdings were 26 percent. Alternative investments such as real estate, art and yachts made up 6.6 percent of total assets.
But with the S&P 500 continuing its rapid divergence from the MSCI, we imagine these gains won't be so evenly distributed in 2018.