Billionaires around the world saw their total wealth decline by 7% from 2017 to 2018, according to Wealth X's Billionaire Census 2019. At the same time, the number of these ultra-high-net-worth individuals fell from 2,754 to 2,064.
American billionaires had an easier time.
The U.S. was one of the few countries that saw its UHNW population grow from 2017 to 2018, per the report, and America's richest people lost only around 5% of their total wealth, far less than their peers did in most other regions.
Of the 15 countries with the most billionaires, only Russia saw an increase in its total billionaire wealth from the previous year, of 1.1%. It climbed two spots on the list of the top 15 from the previous year, thanks in part to "higher commodity output" and a modest economic recovery, the report notes.
Trade tensions, declines in equity markets and a slowdown in economic growth hurt billionaires around the world in 2018, according to the report, but U.S. billionaires were able to stave off some of the worldwide decline thanks in part to domestic economic conditions and tax cuts.
"Some support for wealth creation came from a stronger U.S. dollar, lifted by quarterly interest rate hikes by the U.S. Federal Reserve, and from the major tax reform package approved in late 2017, which boosted corporate earnings," the report states.
While the U.S. stock market ended down for the year, the report notes that on an annual basis it out-performed other global markets, solidifying the U.S. as the "world's dominant billionaire country."
Overall, the global billionaire population suffered from "the headwinds of weakening global demand, escalating trade tensions and increased investor concern at the pace of monetary tightening," the report says.
Total U.S. billionaire wealth fell from $3.2 trillion to $3.013 trillion. Still, UHNW individuals in other countries fared worse. China saw its billionaire population decrease by almost 16%, from 338 individuals in 2017 to 285 last year, and the super rich there lost 8% of their total wealth.
"China's tariff conﬂict with the U.S. was a major factor, weighing on demand, sentiment and returns across Asia, which were compounded by a cyclical slowdown in growth, capital outﬂows, a lending clampdown in China's banking sector and currency weakness against the U.S. dollar," the report states.
"Generally, the U.S. economy is more resilient than other economies, which helps U.S. billionaires keep their wealth above that mark," Maeen Shaban, director of research & data analytics at Wealth-X, tells CNBC Make It. "For example, in China, we saw more than a 21% drop in the Shanghai stock market and more than 18% in Beijing, factoring into the major decline in Asian billionaire wealth and population."
Combined European billionaire wealth fell by 7%, while the Middle East saw a 7.9% decline.
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