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China now fifth in millionaire race
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China has surpassed France and now stands fifth around the world for its number of US dollar millionaires, said Merrill Lynch and the France-based Capgemini, the biggest European consulting firm.

China was reported to have about 415,000 people owning at least US$1 million in liquid assets last year, more than France's 394,000.

Great Britain ranked fourth and had 495,000 US dollar millionaires, according to the Capgemini report.

The number of millionaires around the world reached 10.1 million last year, up 6 percent from a year ago. Most of the newcomers were from China, India and Brazil.

As their fortune reached US$40,700 billion in total, the average amount of liquid assets for each was as high as US$4 million – the highest in history – the report said.

An average 7.9 percent surge on the number of Asian millionaires may bring the region to a total of US$13,900 billion liquidity, which would exceed Europe's US$13,500 billion, the report said.

The report also said the slow down in mature markets and inflation in emerging markets were major factors affecting the number of millionaires this year.

Inflation is the biggest crisis facing Asia and the global economy, said Stephen Corry, head of Merrill Lynch's global wealth management department.

Merrill Lynch said millionaires began to change their investment strategies and focus on markets they were familiar with or with low risks because of the weakening world economy.

However, in 2006, millionaires were more willing to invest money in venture capitals, according to Merrill Lynch.

Compared with 2006, their investments in real estate market dropped 9 percent but investments in bond and banking deposits were up 9 percent, accounting for 44 percent of their assets.

Asian millionaires were interested in buying luxury products and enjoying upmarket tourism. Their peers in Europe were reported to spend more money on art works. Paintings and antiques accounted for 22 percent of their assets on average, the report said.

(Shanghai Daily June 27, 2008)

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