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US billionaires gain nearly $1 trillion in bull market

It's been a five-year bull market in billionaires.

Since the market bottom in 2009, America's billionaires have seen their fortunes and numbers soar to new records. There are now around 500 billionaires in America—up from around 360 in 2009, according to Forbes and Wealth-X.

Their combined fortunes have nearly doubled, to more than $2 trillion today from around $1.2 trillion in 2009, according to Forbes and Wealth-X. Most of that came from stock gains.

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For perspective, America's roughly 115 million households have gained about $14 trillion in stock wealth since 2009. So America's billionaires gained 7 percent of all of America's gain in household wealth from stocks.

This helps explain why the broad economy is still so weak even if household wealth and stock wealth is at all-time highs. So who were the biggest gainers?

Ray Dalio speaks with CNBC at the 2014 WEF in Davos, Switzerland.
Patrick Bucci | CNBC
Ray Dalio speaks with CNBC at the 2014 WEF in Davos, Switzerland.

On a dollar basis, Bill Gates is among the biggest beneficiaries of the five-year bull market. His net worth has surged by more than $36 billion since 2009. He is now the richest person in the world with around $78 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.

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While some of that is from the rise in Microsoft stock, the majority are from his investment company, Cascade, which has shares of Berkshire, Coca-Cola, Canadian National Railway and other companies.

Gaming tycoon Sheldon Adelson has seen one of the biggest percentage jumps in big wealth since 2009. He went from a net worth of about $3 billion in 2009 to $38 billion in 2014, according to Forbes.

Carl Icahn, the activist investor, is up by $9 billion and is now worth around $23 billion.

And hedge funders scored big. Ray Dalio was worth around $4 billion in 2009, and now he's at around $14 billion.

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It's no wonder that the record in American wealth has not translated into broader economic growth or job gains.

—By CNBC's Robert Frank. Follow him on Twitter @robtfrank.

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