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."

The number of high-net-worth-individuals around the world rose to 7.1 million, according to the report. In the United States, slightly fewer than 200,000 people became high-net-worth individuals in 2001, bringing the total to 2.1 million.

The study also found that the wealth of ultra high-net-worth individuals - people with financial assets of $30 million or more - also rose about 3% to $8.37 trillion. The number of ultra high-net-worth individuals rose 2.6% to 57,000, according to Merrill.

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