The number of millionaires in the world plunged 14.9% last year as the markets faced extreme losses and volatility, according to the Merrill Lynch/Capgemini 2009 World Wealth Report. This means there are fewer millionaires in the world today than in 2005.


The number of ultra-high-net-worth individuals (those worth net assets of at least $30 million, not including their primary residence) also dropped 24.6%.


The high-net-worth group saw a 19.5% drop in their combined wealth to $32.8 trillion, wiping out the gains from two years of growth in 2006 and 2007. The ultra-high-net-worth group saw an even greater 23.9% decline in their combined wealth.


By region, North America lost the most millionaires last year, with a 19% decrease in the number of people who qualified as high-net-worth (those with assets of at least $1 million excluding their primary residence). However the region still boasts the largest number of millionaires in the world with 2.7 million people in this category.


Still, no part of the world was unscathed. Europe saw a 14.4% decrease in its high-net-worth population, while Asia-Pacific lost 14.4% of its millionaires.


Hong Kong was particularly hard hit, with a 61.3% decline in its number of millionaires to 37,000. India’s high-net-worth population also dropped 31.6% to 84,000.


Yet, much of the world’s wealth is still concentrated in the United States, Japan and Germany, which together account for 54% of the world’s high-net-worth population.


But, China surpassed the United Kingdom to rank fourth by number of millionaires. China now has 364,000 millionaires versus 362,000 in the U.K. Brazil also reached the top ten for the first time, boasting 131,000 millionaires in 2008.

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