The combined wealth of the world's high-net-worth individuals rose nearly 3% to $26.2 trillion in 2001, according to the 2002 World Wealth Report recently published by Merrill Lynch and Cap Gemini Ernst & Young. The report defines high-net-worth individuals as those with financial assets of at least $1 million, excluding real estate.

"This rise is the slowest wealth growth reported in the World Wealth Report since it was first published in 1997," said Kelly Martin, president of Merrill Lynch's International Private Client Group. "However, given the extremely difficult financial market conditions, this growth highlights the underlying strength of this market segment."

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