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North America Now Has Fewer Rich People Than Asia

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Earlier this year, we found out that it was more expensive to rent in Beijing than Midtown Manhattan. New Yorkers were horrified.

Well, the global recession has done a lot more than drive down Manhattan rent from obscene to merely expensive. It’s also given Asia an edge over North America in total millionaires.

Don’t worry though, thanks to people like Microsoft (MSFT) co-founder Bill Gates, Google’s (GOOG) Larry Page and Sergey Brin, and newly minted gazillionaire and Facebook (FB) founder Mark Zuckerberg, North America still holds the largest share of the world’s wealth. Apple’s (AAPL) massive cash reserves probably don’t hurt either.

According to a recent survey, North America has 3.35 million high-net worth individuals (defined as people with a minimum of $1 million to invest). Asia has 3.37 million. Europe comes in a distant third with 3.17 million.

Overall wealth has declined over the past year, thanks to the worldwide financial crisis. Combined, the world’s wealthy lost 1.7% of their money in 2011, dropping its combined value to a paltry $42 trillion.

The super-rich -- people with at least $30 million to invest -- were hit even harder, and saw their total holdings drop 5%. The number of super-rich fell 2.5% in the same period.

Those poor, poor one-percenters.  

(See also: New York Rent Now Cheaper than Beijing's)
POSITION:  No positions in stocks mentioned.