Inflation Hits Asia's Wealthiest the Hardest

Wealth on ticker board
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The wealthy in Asia - which is estimated to be home to the largest population of high net worth individuals in the world - have to now fork out even more cash to maintain their high life.

The 2013 Julius Baer Lifestyle Index, published on Tuesday, showed that the cost of luxury goods and services across major cities in Asia rose 8 percent from 2012, outpacing inflation in the region which accelerated to 5.3 percent.

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The index tracks a basket of 20 discretionary goods and services including the average cost of a night's stay at the Four Seasons Hotel, a golf club membership and a Botox treatment in four cities: Hong Kong, Singapore, Shanghai and Mumbai.

Among consumer items that make up the 2013 list, there was surging demand for wine and cigars, which saw prices rise 16.4 percent and 13.1 percent year on year, respectively, followed by men's tailoring and luxury cars.

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However, costs of an international education rose a whopping 30 percent compared to last year. The cost of attending top universities such as Oxford or Harvard rose by a third, said Julius Baer, Switzerland's third-largest wealth manager, in a report published alongside the index.

Of the cities surveyed, Mumbai's sub-index witnessed the highest jump of all at 16.7 percent in local currency terms - with almost every item rising, led by a 13 percent increase in high end property, the bank wrote.

Shanghai's sub-index, by contrast, saw less than half the rise of India's financial capital, held back by the moderation in the city's property price gains.

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Changing Patterns

China, which is forecast to be home to 1.4 million or around half of Asia's high net worth individuals (HNWIs) by 2015, according to the bank, is experiencing a shift in spending patterns among its wealthy. HNWIs are defined as those with $1 million or more in investable assets.

"Today's affluent Chinese consumers see luxury as a way of life, not just the occasional purchase of a good or service, separate from the rest of their lives," it said.

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Luxury watches, for example, were purchased on average every 6 to 12 months in 2012, compared to once a year in 2011.

"It has taken Chinese consumers less than a decade to exhibit spending patterns that are seen in established luxury markets such as the United States and Europe," the bank said.

"This is especially true among younger Chinese. They have grown up in a period in which China's economy experienced significant growth," it added, highlighting the scale of opportunity for luxury goods makers in the world's second largest economy.