Asia has more millionaires than North America

Jack Ma, chairman and chief executive of Alibaba Group, is among the growing cadre of millionaires (and richer) in Asia. (Daniel J. Groshong / Bloomberg News / June 19, 2012)

North America no longer has the most millionaires.

For the first time, the Asia Pacific region is now home to the largest group of people with more than $1 million to invest.

The U.S. and Canada together still make up the richest territory, even though overall wealth fell 2.3% to $11.4 trillion last year amid market volatility, according to a report from Capgemini consultancy and RBC Wealth Management.

But the area lost 1.1% of its millionaires in 2011, as its 3.35-million affluent households were outnumbered by their 3.37-million peers in China, Japan and other Asian nations.

The ranks of millionaires in the Far East swelled by 1.6%, though their wealth slid 1.1% to $10.7 trillion. Surprisingly, given its severe debt crisis, Europe saw its own count increase by 1.1% to 3.2 million, though wealth stumbled a bit to $10.1 trillion. The Middle East had 450,000 high net-worth households, up 2.7%, a group that together boosted its wealth 0.7% to $1.7 trillion.

Worldwide, the population of millionaires climbed 0.8% to hit a record 11 million. In 2010, the demographic expanded 8.3%.

Their overall personal worth, however, slumped 1.7% to $42 trillion amid general economic lethargy, instability in Europe, the tsunami in Japan, the "Arab Spring" and the U.S. debt downgrade. It was the first global decline since the 2008 downturn, when global wealth slid 19.5%.

Among individual countries, the U.S. remains top-ranked, followed by Japan and Germany, together claiming 53.3% of all millionaires.

The number of well-off Indians slumped 18% to 125,500, while their counterparts in Hong Kong dipped 17.4%. Despite the beginnings of a slowdown in China, the nation’s cadre of millionaires grew 5.2% to 562,400 people. Brazil’s number increased 6.2%.

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