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What downturn? More people worldwide have $100 million

August 15, 2012 |  2:53 pm

The 1% has gotten bigger. And it’s feeling pretty good.

Despite the economic downturn and woes of the euro currency, the global number of "centa-millionaires" -– people with more than $100 million in disposable assets –- grew to 63,000 last year, according to a report by Citi Private Bank, property consultancy Knight Frank and other analysts.

Their net worth: $39.9 trillion.

The rich increased their ranks most in East and Southeast Asia, where the study found there are now 18,000 centa-millionaires, outstripping North America (17,000) and Western Europe (14,000).

In Western Europe, the financial crisis does seem to have taken a toll: Although the number of extremely wealthy people rebounded somewhat last year, there were still 7% fewer than five years earlier.

Worldwide, more than three in four extremely wealthy are optimistic or neutral on their future wealth, a survey included in the report found. The super-rich are especially buoyant in Asia, where fewer than one in eight were at all downcast on their financial future.

That optimism makes sense in light of how they’ve weathered the financial turbulence so far, according to the survey, which quizzed more than 4,000 people worth at least $100 million each. Nearly 70%  said their net worth had gone up or stayed the same last year.

Asia has even more reason to grin, with most of Asia projected to nearly double its share of world gross domestic product by the middle of the century. The report also pointed to Asian countries such as Bangladesh, Mongolia and Vietnam as generators of future growth and singled out Shanghai as a likely choice for the top city in 2050.

But there’s at least one fly in the ointment, Citigroup chief economist Willem Buiter said in the report. A political backlash against the gap between the rich and poor could lead governments to increase taxes or target tax havens, he said.

"It’s going to be a tougher playing field for the rich," Buiter was quoted as saying.

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-- Emily Alpert in Los Angeles

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