Total financial assets reach record high: Allianz
Healthy gains on stock markets across the world in 2012 helped boost peoples' finances by over 8 percent, according to a report which investigates individual wealth across more than 50 countries.
Allianz's Global Wealth Report found that last year, people held a total of 111 trillion euros ($150 trillion) of financial assets, which include bank deposits, investments and pensions – a record high.
This marked an 8.1 percent increase on 2011, and was driven by gains on global stock markets, despite a number of global concerns including the ongoing euro zone crisis, the U.S. fiscal cliff and fears of a China slowdown.
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Over 2012, the Dow jumped 7.26 percent, the S&P 500 bounced 13.41 percent, and the Nasdaq advanced 15.91 percent. Europe's FTSEEurofirst 300 Index ended the year 12 percent higher, while in Asia, Japan's Nikkei 225 and Hong Kong's Hang Seng both jumped nearly 23 percent,
Allianz found that, as such, assets held in securities swelled by 10.4 percent across the year - the best result since the financial crisis took hold in 2008.
"Booming stock markets allowed North America, and even crisis-ridden western Europe, to achieve commendable growth in 2012, at 8.3 percent and 5.3 percent respectively," the Allianz analysts, led by chief economist Michael Heise, wrote in the report, which was published on Tuesday.
Asia witnessed the fastest rate of growth in total financial assets, they said, at almost 16 percent. The region was followed by Oceania (which includes Australia and the islands of the central and south Pacific), Latin America and eastern Europe, all of which also reported growth running into the double digits.
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Meanwhile, Allianz found that debt growth – including mortgages, consumer credit and student loans - remained subdued in 2012. The global debt burden climbed by 2.9 percent year-on-year to hit 32.4 trillion euros.
"The financial crisis stopped debt growth in its tracks," the report said, adding that last year's growth rate lagged well behind the long-term average of 5.5 percent.
As such, global net financial assets (financial assets less liabilities) actually witnessed double-digit growth of 10.4 percent over the year, according to Allianz.
"All regions benefited from this strong growth," the report said. "Even in the crisis-ridden euro zone, net financial assets climbed by 7.2 percent – not least thanks to stagnating liabilities – putting them back above the pre-crisis value for the first time at the end of 2012."
Households across the world were hard hit by the global financial crisis, which saw their wealth shrink relative to their debt as house prices fell. But Allianz said that in 2012 - for the first time – wealth had bounced back its pre-crisis levels across all regions.
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When it came to the richest individual countries in 2012, Switzerland was ranked No. 1 by Allianz, with average net per capita financial assets totaling 141, 895 euros ($191,320). The U.S. came in at No. 2, followed by Japan No. 3.
Perhaps surprisingly however, Germany – the so-called "powerhouse of Europe" - only made No. 17 on the list of richest countries, with just 41,950 euros net per capita financial assets.
"Germany's savers have weathered the crisis fairly well to date," said Heise. "But there is no room for complacency, Germany's midfield ranking is nothing to be proud of."
—By CNBC's Katrina Bishop. Follow her on Twitter